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Bone marrow transplants have been part of the milieu of potential treatments for cancer for decades, but that does not mean that there are no side effects. Graft-versus-host disease is among the most common and most damaging problems that the transplant can cause, particularly because the medication that treats it can cause side effects that require further medication.
surgery, treatment, side effects
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Bone marrow transplant surgery is often seen as one of the brightest lights in the dark cloud of cancer care. The procedure has been one of the most effective counter-measures to the spread of cancer throughout a body, and has the distinction of being one of the less time-consuming approaches to cancer treatment. However, recent studies and discoveries have shown that bone marrow transplant surgery may is not as rosy and shiny as once thought, with news of side effects and possible complications emerging from the woodwork. For one thing, the transplanted cells can occasionally attack the new host body, causing damage to cell structure, the skin, and internal organs.
This particular effect, known as Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD), has been known to strike several transplant patients every year. The frequency and the severity of the problem have given it the distinction of being the premier problem faced by people who undergo bone marrow transplant surgery. This occurs when the transplanted bone marrow carries active immune cells with it. These cells the proceed to attack the host body, believing it to be a foreign entity. There are procedures in place to help prevent the problem, but as with all surgical procedures involving transplants, the possibility of contamination is always present and can only be minimized.
The best known way to help alleviate the problems caused by this would be the use of a steroid known as prednisone, usually lasting for several weeks. The medication is designed specifically to suppress the immune cells and reduce the inflammation and damage that they can cause, usually just long enough for the cells to acclimate to the host body. The steroid is known to be effective in alleviating the problems caused by GVHD, but there are other factors to be considered. Long-term use of the drug has a list of known psychoactive effects, such as violent mood swings. There are also more severe side effects, such as possible muscle and bone deterioration, which can be fatal in certain situations. In such cases, doctors are often forced to prescribe other steroids to alleviate the effects of predsinone.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently passed a motion to prevent a drug called orBec from being released to the market. According to the manufacturers of the drug, it was designed as an alternative to predsinone, being that it could alleviate the problems caused by GVHD but did not have the same level of toxicity. However, the FDA apparently found something objectionable about the drug and decided to keep it from entering the market in lieu of further testing. The drug was redesigned from a steroid often used by asthma patients, allowing for alleviation of symptoms without suppressing the body’s immune system. However, the FDA has ruled that further testing needs to be conducted to determine whether or not there are any harmful side effects.
For the time being, there are several hospitals that have signed up to test the medication on their patients. Doctors are also reportedly quite eager to get their hands on the experimental drug, if only because it could ease the burdens of their patients. The constant prescribing of steroids due to GVHD can easily open up a new range of complications that the use of orBec might help avoid.