Stem cell transplants are used to treat conditions in which the bone marrow is damaged and is no longer able to produce healthy blood cells. Transplants can also be carried out to replace blood cells that are damaged or destroyed as a result of intensive cancer treatment.
Researchers in the Van Boxtel organization for pediatric oncology checked out the DNA of blood stem cells in nine patients who had gone through a stem cell transplant.
The number of changes in the DNA of these cells in comparison with those in blood stem cells from healthy donors was a lot bigger. They observed that the majority of transplanted blood stem cells did not contain a higher number of mutations than those of healthy donors. This offers essential proof for the safety of stem cell transplants.
In a small variety of patients, Van Boxtel's team ran into a specific pattern of mutations or scars in the DNA that they had not seen before. To further investigate this scar, they analyzed statistics from more than 3,000 patients with cancer that had spread or blood disorders using artificial intelligence software.
To find out whether ganciclovir caused changes in DNA, the team exposed cultured blood stem cells in the lab to ganciclovir. In this test, they certainly noticed that the drug triggered the scar in the DNA they found earlier. Ganciclovir also led to changes in genes known to cause cancer.
The group then examined some other anti-virus drugs. This medicine, foscarnet, is likewise used to deal with viral infections after stem cell transplantation. However, it isn’t tolerated long-term in most patients because of side effects on the kidneys. In tests on cells in the lab, foscarnet did not cause extra DNA changes or the DNA scar that the researchers had found with ganciclovir.
Further study in larger corporations of patients and in long run is now needed to better apprehend the impact of ganciclovir on DNA.
“It is reassuring to know that stem cell transplantation, a treatment for children and adults with leukemia and other blood disorders, usually leaves no scars in the DNA of the transplanted stem cells.” Says Dr. Mirjam Belderbos.