Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation has evolved
into an accepted treatment for a variety of hematological,
neoplastic and immunological diseases. Long-term followup
monitoring of all transplant recipients are essential
for observing interrelationships and times of onset of
potential late complications (Figure 1
Chronic GVHD is a distinct clinicopathological
syndrome which is the major determinant of long-term
outcome (mortality) and quality of life (morbidity) after
allogeneic bone marrow transplantation and may develop
within 3 to 18 months after allografting and occurs in
approximately 33% of HLA-identical sibling recipients
and 50-70% of recipients of unrelated or mismatchedrelated
marrow grafts [1-3]. Chronic GVHD is an immunologic
disorder presumed to be initiated by immunocompetent
and viable donor lymphocytes recognizing
and reacting against recipient (patient=host) tissue antigens
of variety of tissues. Chronic GVHD usually develops
after Day +80 of allogenic stem cell transplantation
and it involves several organs. Chronic GVHD is a welldefined
clinical and pathological entity which have
features quite similar to autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogrenís
syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and primary biliary
cirrhosis . Approximately 50% of patients will develop
this complication within 6 months after the transplants
despite continued treatment with immunosuppressive
medications. Close monitoring is recommended during
the first two years after allogeneic stem cell transplantation
so that appropriate treatment is instituted promptly
in patients who develop chronic GVHD. Debilitation,
joint contractures and profound immunosuppression
resulting in recurrent bacterial infections are prominent
characteristics of untreated chronic GVHD [4,5].
During the early phase of the disease especially
dermal and gastro-intestinal manifestations may appear
similar to acute GVHD. HLA-disparity, positive history
for acute GVHD and older patient age have been reported to be associated with an increased risk of developing chronic GVHD appears to be a marker for severe chronic GVHD and is often associated with progressive type onset. Chronic GVHD is observed in 33% of HLAidentical sibling transplantations and in 50 to 70% of the recipients of unrelated or mismatched-related marrow grafts [4,6].
Chronic GVHD may present in two clinical forms;
"Limited Disease" and "Extensive Disease". "Limited Disease" is defined as signs and symptoms of chronic
GVHD involving one organ system (skin and/or liver)
with at least one biopsy showing characteristics histopathological GVHD findings (Table 1). "Extensive Disease"
is defined as the presence of signs and symptoms
involving more than one organ system, at least one
biopsy showing characteristic of either generalized skin
involvement, or localized skin involvement and/or hepatic dysfunction due to chronic GVHD plus liver histology with chronic aggressive hepatitis, eye involvement with decreased abnormal Schirmerís test (less than 5 mm wetting), or involvement of minor salivary glands with Sjogrenís syndrome and involvement of any other target organ (Table 1). Chronic GVHD is classified into three patterns according to the onset. Progressive chronic GVHD is defined as direct continuation of signs and symptoms of acute GVHD and it is associated with a higher mortality rate. Quiescent onset of chronic GVHD is observed following the complete resolution of prior acute GVHD. Third category includes De novo onset of
chronic GVHD during which chronic GVHD may appear
without prior history of acute GVHD. All these categories are briefly summarized in table 2. Among these three
different chronic GVHD presentations, De novo onset
of chronic GVHD has been reported to have the best
Figure 1: Late complications of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 
Table 1: Clinical forms of chronic graft-versus-host disease
Table 2: Classification of clinical chronic graft-versus-host disease according to onset
Manifestations of chronic GVHD
Karnofsky or Lansky Clinical Performance scores
<60%, ≥15% weight loss, and recurrent infections are
usually signs of clinical extensive chronic GVHD. Abnormalities
that could indicate chronic GVHD are categorized
by organ system as listed below in figure 2.
Figure 2: Frequency of clinical manifestations in extensive chronic GVHD [2,3]
Skin involvement is the most frequent clinical feature
of chronic GVHD. Erythema, dryness, pruritis, pigmentary
changes (i.e., hyperpigmentation, vitiligo), mottling,
papulosquamous plaques, nodules, exfoliation, macularpapular
or urticarial rash, scleroderma, morphea (one or
several circumscribed, indurated and shiny lesions) may
be observed. In some patients clinical features may
resemble morphea and occasional nodules can be seen
. Skin grids, medical photos, and skin thickening
scores are useful for assessing the extent of skin involvement
and response to treatment. (Figure 3a,3b)
Figure 3 (a). Disseminated scleradermatous skin changes in chronic
GVHD. Body skin is atrophic, firm, tight and hyperpigmented
Figure 3 (b). Indurated, sclerotic and white-yellow areas of poorly
defined contours on an arm of a patient with chronic GVHD
Ridging, onychodystrophy and onycholysis can be
observed (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Nails with onychodystrophic features
Premature graying (scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows),
thinning scalp hair, alopecia or decreased body hair can
By day 100 post-transplant, chemoradiotherapy induced
oral mucositis and dryness are resolved or should
be improving. The development of new oral pain or
dryness after day 100 should alert the physician to the
development of chronic GVHD. Signs and symptoms
include dryness, burning pain, gingivitis, mucositis, striae, atrophy, erythema, lichenoid changes and ulcers . Atrophy and pigmentary changes on the lip and tooth decay may be present. Lip biopsy shows characteristic pathologic findings (Figure 5a and Figure 5b).
Figure 5 (a). Heavy lichenoid white plaques due to chronic GVHD.
Interspersed among the white plaques are areas of mucosal atrophy
Figure 5 (b). Complete replacement of normal surface architecture by GVHD-associated oral lichenoid lesions and loss of papilla
Ocular symptoms are characteristics of "ocular sicca"
including dryness, burning, blurring, gritty eyes, photophobia
and pain. Schirmerís test showing a mean value
of both eyes <5 mm at 5 minutes, or <10 mm with signs of keratitis (slit light exam) [3,4].
Vaginal dryness, dyspareunia, stricture formation
and stenosis, erythema, atrophy and/or lichenoid changes not induced by ovarian failure can be seen [4,10]. Biopsy
and cultures are required to rule out infection and to
confirm chronic GVHD.
Liver function tests mainly show cholestatic features.
Elevated liver function test not due to other causes withalkaline phosphatase > 3 x upper normal limits with or without elevation of SGOT >4 x upper normal values and/or elevated total serum bilirubin >2.5 in absence of chronic GVHD involving other organs (11). Liver biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis.
Chronic GVHD may be associated with recurrent
sinopulmonary infections and progressive obstructive
lung defects (figure 6). Obstructive lung defect with
FEV1/FVC <70% or an FEV1 <80% predicted or a
decrease of FEV1/FVC by 15% from previous pulmonary
tests are thought to represent bronchiolitis obliterans
[4,12,13]. High resolution CAT scan usually shows air trapping. Suspected bronchiolitis obliterans requires negative microbiological tests from bronchoalveolar lavage. Transbronchial biopsy is required to confirm the
diagnosis of bronchiolitis obliterans in the absence of
chronic GVHD involving other organs.
Figure 6. Probability of pulmonary infection after discharge [2,3]
The patients with chronic GVHD may have dysphagia
or odynophagia with radiological evidence of stenosis
(Barium swallow) or web formation by esophago-gastroduodenoscopy
and occasional, dysmotility. Anorexia,
nausea, vomiting, weight loss and diarrhea could be
presenting symptoms. Endoscopic biopsy showing characteristic
pathological findings is necessary to confirm
the diagnosis of chronic GVHD. Weight loss more than
15% body weight not related to other causes is usually
a sign of extensive chronic GVHD and is not always
associated with gastrointestinal involvement. Malabsorption
syndrome is usually present in these patients
The patients may have arthralgias involving the large
proximal girdle joints although, smaller joints may be
also affected. Contractures are usually secondary to
scleroderma or fasciitis. Proximal muscle weakness with
occasional cramping and elevation of CPK and/or aldolase can be seen. EMG findings are consistent with
myositis [16,17]. Biopsy is needed to confirm diagnosis if, only an organ is involved. Histological findings include necrotic fibers, interstitial inflammations and
IgG deposits on immunoflurescence staining. Myasthenia
gravis has been reported in few cases (Figure 7a and Figure 7b) .
Figure 7 (a). Palm with patchy papulosquamous changes and atrophic
Figure 7 (b). Arm and part of trunk with brown discoloration with
firm, sclerodermatous and atrophic changes on right arm
Eosinophilic or sclerosing fasciitis characterized by
stiffness with restriction of movement due to inflammation
and fibrosis involving the sheaths of tendons can
be seen in chronic GVHD . Occasionally swelling, erythema and pain may accompany the clinical picture.
It usually affects the wrists, forearms and hands, followed
by ankles, legs and feet in a less frequent order. Induration
may be present on palpation. Patients are unable to
extend the wrists without flexing the fingers and the
elbows. Cramping is often present.
Thrombocytopenia (usually >20.000/mm3) is more
often seen in patients with progressive onset of chronic GVHD . Thrombocytopenia is a poor prognosis factor if, present at the time of diagnosis of extensive chronic GVHD. Eosinophilia can also be present in patients with chronic GVHD. Recurrent infections (commonly sinusitis) often a sign of severe immunodeficiency are associated with ongoing extensive chronic GVHD.
Hypogammaglobulinemia is usually present (i.e., IgG
subclasses, IgA) .
Owing to the prolonged time to immunological recovery,
infections may be common in patients with
chronic GVHD. Treatment of chronic GVHD with steroids
and associated hypogammaglobulinemia contribute
to this risk. Infections with encapsulated gram-positive
bacteria are most common and require daily penicillin
or trimethoprim-sulfamethaxazole prophylaxis [3,4,22].
Screening studies for chronic graft-versushost
The median day of diagnosis of chronic GVHD in
HLA-identical sibling recipients is 201 days after transplant;
in contrast, HLA-non identical related and unrelated
donor marrow recipients have an earlier diagnosis
and onset. Small number of patients may develop chronic GVHD after day +500. Screening studies are required
to detect early chronic GVHD in all allogenic stem cell
and bone marrow transplant recipients 80-100 days after
transplantation as well as for patients who are being
monitored in long-term follow-up. An updated list of
screening studies for chronic GVHD is summarized in
table 3. [4,23,24]. Long-term follow-up nurses play a
significant role in the screening and monitoring studies
of patients with chronic GVHD (Figure 8).
Table 3: Screening studies for Chronic Graftversus-
Figure 8. Nurse clinician activities and roles
Laboratory testing and diagnostic indicators
of chronic GVHD
Schirmerís test with a mean value ≤5 mm at 5 minutes,
or values of 6-10 mm in patients who have ocular symptoms,
or keratitis detected by slit lamp examination.
Elevated liver function tests not due to other causes
(alkaline phosphatase ≥2 x upper limit, of normal, AST
or ALT >4 x upper limit of normal or total serum bilirubin
New obstructive lung defect defined as an FEV1
<80% of predicted with either an FEF 25-75 <65% of
predicted or RV >120% of predicted, or a decrease of
FEV1/FVC by >12% within a period of less than 1 year,
thought not to be caused by an infectious process, asthma
or recurrent aspiration from the sinuses or from gastroesophageal
reflux. In the absence of GVHD in any other
organ, the diagnosis of bronchiolitis obliterans requires
negative microbiological tests from bronchoalveolar
lavage, evidence of air trapping by high resolution endexpiratory
and end-inspiratory CAT scan of the lung, or
confirmation by thoracoscopic biopsy.
Esophageal web formation, stricture or dysmotility
demonstrated by barium swallow, endoscopy or manometry.
Endoscopic findings of mucosal edema, focal erosions,
or mucosal sloughing in severe cases, with histological
changes of apoptotic epithelial cells and crypt cell drop
Elevated CPK or aldolase, EMG findings consistent
with myositis with biopsy revealing no other etiological
Thrombocytopenia (usually 20,000-100,000/mm3),
eosinophilia (>6%), hypogammaglobulinemia, hypergam-maglobulinemia and autoantibodies may occur in some cases.
Diagnosis of chronic GVHD
Histological documentation of chronic GVHD by
skin or other tissue biopsies is necessary for diagnosis.
Pathologic findings in the skin include localized epidermal
atrophy and dense focal dermal fibrosis in the
absence of significant inflammation. In other patients,
more generalized histological manifestations are seen
with inflammation in eccrine coils and pilar units which
lead to fibrosis throughout the dermis. Liver biopsy
reveals bile duct damage similar to the histopathologic
findings of primary biliary cirrhosis [3,4].
Prevention of chronic GVHD
At least two randomized trials demonstrated that
treatment with CSP significantly reduces acute GVHD
without altering the rate of chronic GVHD. No difference
was observed in the cumulative incidence of chronic
GVHD in the transplant recipients given FK506/MTX
and those given CSP/MTX prophylaxis.
Standard GVHD prophylaxis with methotrexate
(MTX) and cyclosporine (CSP) involves a tapering of
CSP doses after day 50 and discontinuation of CSP
administration by day 180 . With this regimen chronic GVHD tends to occur during the CSP tapering and the ensuing 6 months after discontinuation (26). A prospective randomized clinical trial reported by Kansu, et al  compared the incidence of clinical extensive chronic
GVHD, transplantation-related mortality, survival and
relapse free survival among recipients randomly assigned to receive a 24-month or a 6-month course of cyclosporine prophylaxis after allogeneic transplantation. Clinical extensive chronic GVHD developed in 35 of the 89
patients (39%) in the 24-month group and 37 of the 73 patients (51%) in the 6-month group. There were no significant differences between the two groups in developing chronic GVHD, TRM, survival and disease-free survival .
Treatment of chronic GVHD
There have been no spontaneous improvement in
disabled survivors with clinical extensive chronic GVHD
in spite of many years of observation. Treatment of chronic GVHD usually begins with administration of
high dose glucocorticoids and continued administration
of cyclosporine or tacrolimus (FK506) originally given
for prevention of GVHD after the transplant. Medications used for primary and secondary treatment of chronic GVHD are summarized in table 4.
Table 4: Medications used for treatment of chronic GVHD
Initial attempts of treating chronic GVHD were
largely unsuccessful. In a prospective placebo-controlled
study, prednisone and azathioprine treatment have improved
response and decreased disability of chronic
GVHD compared to prednisone alone. However, secondary
to an increased number of infectious complications
in patients treated with prednisone and azathioprine,
survival was low at 47% compared to 61% in patients
treated with prednisone alone. This analysis included
only patients with platelet counts of more than
100.000/cu.mm. Thirty-eight "high-risk" patients were
placed on prednisone alone. The non-relapse mortality
and survival rates for these patients were 26% and 58%,
The addition of oral CSP in patients at high-risk for
GVHD with thrombocytopenia was also studied. Renal
toxicity was modest and survival improved and infections
decreased with this protocol. Average duration of therapy was 1 to 2 years. However, infections again remained a frequent cause of morbidity and contributed to transplantrelated
mortality in patients with high-risk chronic GVHD.
In a prospective randomized study, alternating day
CSP and prednisone therapy for high-risk chronic GVHD (platelets less than 100.000/mm3) appears to produce a
higher response rate compared to CSP alone [29,30].
However, the 3-year actuarial survival for the high-risk
group remained low at 48% and the non-relapse mortality
rate of 35% with the combination therapy. The survival
and the non-relapse mortality rates appear not to be
significantly different between the two arms of the study
(CSP/PRED versus CSP). The 3-year survival was 48%
in patients who received primary therapy and infections
appeared to be reduced in the long-term survivors.
Arora and co-workers  recently suggested to
recognize high-risk group with chronic GVHD (age 20
years or older, progressive onset of disease, platelets
<100.000/mm3, GI involvement and those without a
complete response after 6 months) and employ a more
intensified regimens to the patients. Novel approaches
and more effective treatment modalities should be directed
on high-risk patients with chronic GVHD .
Patients with chronic GVHD should be included in
treatment protocols. In those patients without this option
available, alternate-day prednisone and CSP appears to
be the treatment of choice. But in newly diagnosed
patients with extensive chronic GVHD after similar
medications and dose levels, daily prednisone (1mg/kg)
and daily CSP (10mg/kg) should be started. If there is
no flare of the clinical chronic GVHD, steroid taper
should be started first followed by CSP taper by 25%
per week to alternate-day dose schedule. The patient
must be examined every two to three months and doses
should be adjusted according to response criteria. When
the patient has a complete recovery of extensive chronic
GVHD, then a gradual taper schedule has to be made
and dose reductions to be advised every two weeks. Total
therapy period may last 9 to 12 months. If the patient
does not respond by 3 to 6 months or progress on treatment,
then salvage (secondary) therapy protocols must
be considered [4,32].
Salvage therapy is indicated in patients who do not
respond and/or fail the primary therapy.
In chronic GVHD, long-term immunosuppression
has been shown to increase disability-free survival and
despite treatment with cyclosporine (CSP) and prednisone,
patients with high-risk chronic GVHD have poor survival
[33,34]. In addition, report by Flowers et al. , suggested
that chronic GVHD after PBSCT may be more
protracted and less responsive to current treatment
regimens than chronic GVHD seen after bone marrow
transplantation. In her study, number of successive
treatments needed to control chronic GVHD was higher
after PBSCT than after BMT (p=0.03) .
The major problem in the treatment of chronic GVHD
is when disease shows progression while the patients
are still receiving CSP and prednisone. Salvage therapeutic
modalities have to be considered in the early course to treat extensive chronic GVHD.
Response criteria to therapy and definition of failure
is summarized below. Azathioprine, alternating
CSP/prednisone and thalidomide give similar survival
rates, approximately 75% rate in patients in whom initial
steroid therapy fails. The medications used in the secondary
salvage treatment of chronic GVHD are summarized
in the table 4.
Table 4: Medications used for treatment of chronic GVHD
At present time, on standard salvage treatment for
patients who do not respond to their first-line chronic
GVHD therapy, several pharmacologic agents are currently
being tested in clinical trials aimed at the salvage
treatment of high-risk or refractory chronic GVHD. For
these patients clinicians must seek Phase I/II trials.
Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) is a potent immunosuppressive
agent that selectively inhibits proliferation
of T and B cells. Experimental studies in canine models
demonstrated a synergistic effect of the allograft recipients.
Large randomized study from the Seattle group in
standard risk patients with extensive chronic GVHD
(n=305) showed a better outcome using the combination
of CSP plus prednisone as compared to prednisone alone.
Results of using MMF as salvage therapy showed 11%
CR and 41% PR .
Tacrolimus (FK506) has been given to patients with
steroid-resistant disease and has a better activity for
patients with liver disease than those on CSP. Tacrolimus and MMF have both shown some effectiveness in treating patients who have not been helped by CSP and prednisone.
Thalidomide also showed some efficacy in the primary
treatment of patients with high-risk chronic GVHD
as well as those with refractory disease . A randomized trial with thalidomide was conducted in high-risk chronic GVHD patients comparing thalidomide (25 patients) with placebo (25 patients) given in combination with either CSP or tacrolimus (FK506) with prednisone . In this trial, large number of patients had to discontinue
thalidomide due to neutropenia and neurologic
symptoms. The authors did not find any evidence that
thalidomide improved the survival of high-risk clinical
extensive chronic GVHD patients.
Recently a larger clinical trial of thalidomide as salvage therapy for chronic GVHD has been reported.
Response was observed in 20% of patients treated with
thalidomide. Controlled studies are underway to investigate
the efficacy of FK-506, MMF and rapamycin as a
salvage therapy in chronic GVHD patients who failed
the primary treatment.
Recently, a Phase II trial was reported in 29 patients
with steroid refractory chronic GVHD (median age 42
years, range 18-69) utilizing tacrolimus (FK-506) combination
with sirolimus (Rapamycin) . The onset of
chronic GVHD at study enrollment included 15 relapsing
(52%), 12 progressive (42%) and 2 (7%) de novo cases.
All patients had failed multiple previous lines of immunosuppression
prior to sirolimus (Rapamycin) . The
overall response was 68% (n=18) with 5 CR and 13 PR.
Of the remaining patients, 6 failed to respond, 3 had
progressive disease and 2 patients were not evaluable.
The authors concluded that combination therapy with
sirolimus and tacrolimus is an active regimen for the
treatment of steroid-refractory chronic GVHD particularly
in patients with steroid-refractory scleroderma .
Use of PUVA has been explored in patients with
refractory cutaneous chronic GVHD. In patients who
have isolated skin involvement who do not present
without scleroderma, PUVA should be considered as a
first line therapy. Morphea have been shown to be
successfully treated with PUVA alone. This type of
treatment currently lacks randomized studies and there
is a great need for new randomized prospective trials
Extracorporeal photochemotherapy (Photopheresis,
ECP is a new treatment option for the management
of steroid refractory chronic GVHD over the past few
years. ECP involves ex vivo exposure of leukapheresed
peripheral blood mononuclear cells to ultraviolet A light
in the presence of a DNA-intercalating agent, 8-
methoxypsoralen, with subsequent reinfusion of the
treated cells. The total number of lymphocytes treated
ex-vivo per cycle has been estimated to be approximately
10% of circulating lymphocytes, with an energy delivered
by ultraviolet light of 2 J/cm2 per cell . ECP is
effective in treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, scleroderma
and alloreactivity in solid organ and bone marrow
allografts . In patients with GVHD, ECP appears to
induce tolerance to alloreactive T-cell responses by
modulating dendritic cells .
Clinical response to ECP in patients with chronic
GVHD was first reported by Rosetti et al.  in 1996.
Besides the previously described effect of ECP on T-cell
subsets, a direct effect on circulating antigen-presenting
dendritic cells and natural killer cell populations has
been demonstrated [44,45]. Clinical response to ECP
was associated not only with normalization of skewed
CD4/CD8 ratios but also with an increase in CD3(-)
/CD56(+) natural killer cells and a decrease in the number
of CD80(+) and CD123(+) circulating dendritic cells
[44,45]. While DC-1 type dendritic cells predominate
in the allograft recipient before the initiation of therapy,
most ECP-treated patients demonstrate a shift from DC-
1 to DC-2 type dendritic cells. This phenomenon leads
to a shift from Th1 (interleukin-2, interferon-gamma)
to Th2 (IL-4, IL-10) cytokine profile following photopheresis,
indicating that it can alter alloreactivity in
chronic GVHD by affecting allo-targeted effector T-cell
function via modulation of antigen-presenting cells
Besides the well known efficacy of ECP in the setting
of chronic GVHD, recent studies suggest that it can also
be effective in controlling steroid refractory acute GVHD
involving skin and liver [46-52]. ECP is not recommended
for patients with grade IV acute GVHD or gut involvement
. The ECP procedure is performed using the
UVAR photopheresis system (Therakos, West Chester,
PA, USA) with a mean treatment time of 3.5 hours. Use
of a pheresis catheter is not always necessary. ECP is
initiated in patients with steroid-refractory GVHD when
the white blood cell count is over 1x109/L and if there
is no signs of acute infection. Patients are treated on 2
consecutive days (one cycle) at 1- to 2-week intervals
until improvement and thereafter every 2 to 4 weeks
until maximal response . Then, ECP was tapered on
an individual basis.
Definition of response
No response or progression (failure): Deterioration
of chronic GVHD in at least one organ after 9-12 months of therapy without improvement in other organs. This also includes those patients who are stable but who have persisting Karnofsky or Lansky scores less than 50%.
Partial response: After 9-12 months of therapy the
patient is clinically stable or improved in at least one
evaluable organ without deterioration in others. If still
a partial response after 18 months to 24 months, the
patient is declared a failure. Patients with improvement
of skin and other organ involvement, but persistent active
oral involvement will be considered partial responders.
Complete response: After 9-12 months of therapy
the patients is well and has resolution of all symptoms
and signs of active GVHD. Patients with complete
response in all organs, but have persistent ocular sicca,
will be considered complete responders. Clinical responders
should be divided into two categories: (a) Those with
clinical and histologically complete responses including
biopsies showing no active chronic GVHD, and (b) those
patients with complete clinical response but persistent
histological involvement, including those with biopsy
positive for GVHD.
Flare: Treatment is reduced or stopped after achieving
a complete response but active chronic GVHD returns
requiring systemic therapy. Every patient should be
evaluated by a physician to judge chronic GVHD activity
at 2-3 and 5-6 months of therapy. Physical and neurologic
examinations, weight, laboratory examinations and doses
of immunosupressive drugs must be recorded. If flare
of chronic GVHD occurs, physical findings, laboratory
findings, dates and treatment instituted must also be
Measurement of response
Involvement of the skin (surface area, hair and nails),
oral cavity, eyes (Schirmerís test), liver (serum bilirubin
and alkaline phosphatase), gut (weight loss, malabsorption,
volume of diarrhea, cramps or bleeding), musculoskeletal
(range of motion, CPK, aldolase) will be
measured before and 3 month intervals through the
completion of the treatment. A brief guideline to evaluate
and record the response is summarized below.
Skin: To evaluate response in the skin, a "Grid"
approach should be used. Comparative photographs may also be used to assess treatment response. Skin is considered
to be improved if there is a 25% decrease of the
surface areas involved by rash, sclerosis, lichenoid or
dyspigmentation; regrowth of hair in previous sclerotic
areas; softening of the skin in >25% of previous involved
areas or, increased range of motions by >25% in one or
more joints without deteriorations in others.
Liver: Liver disease is considered improved if; there
is a decrease in serum bilirubin to less than 2 mg/dl for
patients with baseline values of 2 to 4 mg/dl, or; decrease
of >2mg%/dl for patients with baseline values of 4 to 8
mg/dl, or; >25% decrease to <200 mg/dl for patients
with baseline values >300 mg/dl.
Gut: Gut disease is considered improved if there is
a cessation of weight loss or weight gain (i.e. >1 kg) in
a 3 month interval, or; resolution of diarrhea, or; decrease
in the three day average stool volume by >500 ml with
clearing of cramps and bleeding, if present, and/or;
clearing of any cramps and bleeding is considered as
evidence of improvement in patients who have diarrhea
volumes <500 ml but not in patients who have changed
diarrhea volumes >500 ml.
Topical steroids can be used in oral, vaginal, or penile
lesions of chronic GVHD. Ocular sicca may respond to
retinoic acid, and oral sicca may respond to pilocarpine.
In addition to use of artificial tears, ligation of lacrimal
puncti is necessary for patients with severe dry eyes.
Muscular cramps and carpal spasm may be relieved by
clonazepam, klonipin or beclofen. In patients with liver
function abnormalities and refractory hepatic chronic
GVHD, bile acid replacement therapy with ursodeoxycholic
acid (UDCA) can be beneficial.
For patients on long-term steroids, estrogen replacement
in women, high calcium and vitamin-D intake,
daily exercise, annually bone density studies and antiosteoporosis
agents are important to reduce the bone
loss. Weight bearing exercise is necessary to maintain
skeletal muscle mass and can help improve cardiovascular
function. Walking should be done carefully to avoid
harm to the joints.
Pre-menopausal females prior to transplant should receive gonadal replacement therapy following transplant.
Women who decline estrogen therapy or for whom
replacement is inappropriate, such as persons with a
history of breast cancer, should be treated with calcitonin.
Males with low total and free testosterone may benefit
from depo-testosterone injections.
The authors are grateful to Mrs. Nuray Cevit for
Grant Support: This study is partially supported by
the Turkish Academy of Sciences (E.K.).