They have determined a way to predict whether blood cancer patients who secured a bone marrow transplant will develop graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is a common and lethal complication.

Researchers have studied blood samples from around 1,300 bone marrow transplant patients.

The results showed that two proteins present in blood drawn a week after a transplant can predict whether a patient will develop a lethal version of GVHD, weeks before the disease's symptoms normally occur.

Scientists at the Mount Sinai Acute GVHD International Consortium (MAGIC) developed an algorithm, which discovers a patient’s risk of developing the disease by measuring concentrations of these proteins, ST2 and REG3a.

Mount Sinai researchers are currently planning to design clinical trials to study whether immunotherapy drugs, used during the onset of GVHD, may benefit patients after this new blood test determined the risk for severe onset of the disease.

MAGIC co-director Dr James Ferrara said: “The MAGIC algorithm gives doctors a roadmap to save many lives in the future. This simple blood test can determine which bone marrow transplant patients are at high risk for a lethal complication before it occurs.

“It will allow early intervention and potentially save many lives.”

Image: The new MAGIC blood test helps to identify the risk of complication in bone marrow transplant patients. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.