Chronic GVHD Clinical Trials: Promising research, could it be an option for me?

Posted May 2nd, 2019 by Be The Match and filed in News
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Anna Eames, MS, CGC, Jason Carter Clinical Trials Program

Chronic GVHD Clinical Trials: Promising research, could it be an option for me?

If you’re interested in new, promising treatments for chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), you’re not alone. Through clinical trials, researchers have been studying better ways to treat it, and have made exciting progress.

Anna Eames, MS, CGC, Clinical Trial Patient Education Specialist for the Jason Carter Clinical Trials Program, answers your frequently asked questions about GVHD clinical trials.

1. Why would I consider a clinical trial to treat my GVHD?

Anna: Steroids are the most common treatment for chronic GVHD, but they don’t always work and they can cause serious side effects. Steroids work by weakening your entire immune system, so that it doesn’t attack your body. But, in doing so, steroids also prevent your immune system from attacking bacteria, viruses or other invaders. This means that you’re more likely to get infections.

Clinical trials help doctors learn more about new or unproven ways to treat GVHD. It’s only through clinical trials that new treatments are approved. Sometimes the new treatments work better and have fewer side effects than the standard treatment. If you join a clinical trial, you may have treatment options that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you.

2. If I join a clinical trial for GVHD treatment, would I continue my current treatment, or would it be replaced with the treatment in the trial?

Anna: That’s a great question. Whether you continue your current treatment typically depends on how well it’s working for you. Your doctor may have you continue taking your current medicine plus the new treatment. Or, if your current treatment isn’t working very well or at all, you may stop it before you start a new treatment.

3. What are some of the most promising studies for treating GVHD?

Anna: Researchers are looking at ways to stop or prevent the immune system from attacking your body, but still allow it to protect you. There are a few promising studies that are looking at blocking different parts of your immune cells so they stop attacking your body and causing GVHD, but still allowing them to protect your body from infection.

Just recently in 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug ibrutinib for people who have chronic GVHD that didn’t get better with steroids. Thanks to the researchers and patients who joined the clinical trials, now more people may be able to get this treatment. We’re very hopeful to see more new treatment options approved by the FDA in the next few years.

4. If I’m interested in finding a clinical trial to treat my GVHD, what should I do next?

Anna: I recommend talking with your doctor to learn about your treatment options. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • How well is my current treatment working?
  • What other treatment options are available to me either as standard treatment or as part of a clinical trial?
  • If I join a clinical trial, what will I have to do?

Also, you can search for GVHD clinical trials through the Jason Carter Clinical Trials Program. I’m happy to answer your questions or help you with a search!

5. What else should I know about GVHD clinical trials?

Anna: Costs are such an important factor for patients in clinical trials. Talk with your health insurance company before joining a trial to find out what may be covered and what you may need to pay for yourself. If you join a clinical trial far from home, Be The Match has a financial grant that may be able to help with those costs.

Lastly, joining a clinical trial is entirely your choice, and you can stop at any time. Your doctor will take good care of you, regardless of your treatment decisions.

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