Acute Graft Versus Host Disease: A Comprehensive Review

Anticancer Res. 2017 Apr;37(4):1547-1555. doi: 10.21873/anticanres.11483.


Acute graft versus host disease (aGVHD) remains the second leading cause of death following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT). Over the last five years, the progress in understanding the pathophysiology of this immune based-process helped redefine graft versus host reaction and opened new possibilities for novel preventive and therapeutic approaches. The evolution in the field of immunology widened the horizons for hematopoietic stem cell transplant leading to the availability of different stem cell sources for potential graft and incorporation of novel conditioning regimens. There is conflicting data about the impact of the graft source and the conditioning regimen used in the process of AHSCT on the incidence of aGVHD. Many studies have reported increased risk of chronic GVHD (cGVHD) and to a less extent aGVHD with the use of peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow compared to umbilical cord stem cell. The conditioning regimen, either myeloablative, non-myeloablative or reduced intensity may have different impact on the incidence of GVHD. Several preventive modalities have been adopted by different transplant centers but, to date, there is no standardized regimen. As for treatment, immunosuppression using steroids remains the first line of intervention. Several novel therapeutic options are being investigated for treatment of steroid-refractory aGVHD including the use of mesenchymal stem cells, anti thymocyte globulin and extra corporeal photophoresis. This review discusses the pathophysiology, risk factors, clinical features, and advances in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of aGVHD.

Keywords: Acute graft versus host disease; allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; bone marrow transplantation; leukemia; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Graft vs Host Disease / diagnosis*
  • Graft vs Host Disease / prevention & control*
  • Humans