Duke tests treatment for graft vs. host

DURHAM Duke’s Medical Center is one of only a few in the country testing the treatment of graft versus host disease using stem cells and so far it looks very promising.

Kameron Kooshesh, 14, is one of the patients who took part in the investigational treatment. Kooshesh developed leukemia at nine. He underwent a bone marrow transplant when chemo failed, and then he developed graft versus host disease or GvHD. It's a life threatening immune reaction where donor cells attack organs and tissues.

“Mine was a gastrointestinal problem,” said Kooshesh. “And, it was very bad.”

To combat GvHD, doctors gave Kameron steroids, but that created even more problems.

“At one point, he couldn’t climb stairs,” His mother Janet recalled.

Now, Kameron has no problem climbing the stairs. He's also back in school full time. His recovery started quickly after taking part in a clinical trial at Duke.

“Within three weeks - it was just incredible,” said Kooshesh. “Absolutely incredible.”

The turnaround started after doctors used an anti inflammatory stem cell treatment called Prochymal. Doctors took stem cells from the bone marrow of healthy adult donors and gave them to Kameron through IV.

“We've seen more than half the children we've treated respond with full resolution of the graft vs. host disease which is remarkable,” said Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, Director of the Pediatric Blood & Marrow Transplant Program at Duke Children’s.

“It’s non-toxic,” added Kurtzberg. “It’s actually better tolerated than the standard things we do and fortunately it worked.”

The stem cell therapy made all the difference for Kameron in his battle with GvHD. And, he’s hoping his case will help pave the way for others needing treatment.

“I just think [stem cell treatment] is an undiscovered field of gems,” said Kooshesh.

Prochymal is not yet FDA approved, but, it has been granted fast track status by FDA for GvHD.

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