New NCCN Resource Shares Evidence-Based Approaches to Recognizing and Managing Graft-versus-Host Disease Following Stem Cell Transplantation


Newswise – PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA [January 10, 2022] – The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)®) today announced the release of new NCCN guidelines for patients®: Graft versus host disease (GVHD). GVHD is a complication that occurs after a stem cell or bone marrow (aka hematopoietic) transplant from a donor, which is used to cure certain types of cancer in the blood. One of the goals of donor hematopoietic cell transplants is for the donor’s immune cells to attack cancer cells, which is important for healing. When GVHD occurs, the transplanted donor cells attack the patient’s healthy body tissue, causing mild or severe symptoms. The incidences of acute and chronic GVHD continue to be significant in the United States, particularly with the increasing use of unmatched donors, which means that healthy cells are coming from a person who is not a tissue type. perfect (also known as HLA) match.[1]

“GVHD is a transplant complication that surprises many patients,” said Susan Stewart, Executive Director, BMT InfoNet and 32-year bone marrow transplant survivor. “It can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life, especially if it persists over the long term. Knowing the symptoms, so that it can be detected early, as well as the potential treatment options, is crucial for patients with GVHD.

“Anyone who has a donor stem cell transplant should be aware of the possibility of acute or chronic GVHD, which occurs when the donor’s immune cells view the host’s tissues as foreign and attack them,” said Ayman A. Saad, MD, professor of internal medicine, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Hematopoietic cell transplantation. “The symptoms can be very delicate and come on suddenly, in unusual ways, sometimes years after the transplant. The NCCN Patient Guidelines: GVHD clearly explains this complicated process and hopefully helps people understand the variety of therapies that can be used to treat it. “

“The most important tip is to take the GVHD seriously, but don’t panic,” said Alison W. Loren, MD, MSCE, Director, Blood & Marrow Transplant, Cell Therapy & Transplant Program, University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, Vice Chair of the NCCN Guidelines Committee for Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. “GVHD is very common but poorly understood, even by doctors. Hopefully this book brings some order to the chaos by sharing the evidence and uniformity. Treatment guidelines, if used effectively, will limit the severity and duration of people with GVHD.

Drs. Saad and Loren stressed the importance for transplant recipients talking to their doctor about anything that looks different after the procedure, even years later, especially issues like:

  • Eruption
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Small appetite
  • Tired
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Joint stiffness
  • Mouth sores
  • Dry eyes or mouth

GVHD can be life threatening in rare situations, but it can definitely impact quality of life. GVHD can be reversible when treated early. For years the primary treatment was steroids, but recent clinical trials have led to new standards of care. Ongoing research will hopefully further improve prevention and cure techniques.

“The NCCN believes that the best management for any cancer patient is through a clinical trial,” said Dr Loren. “Some trials require that patients have not received any previous treatment, so it is important to speak up immediately and not miss the opportunity to get the best possible care while gaining more insight into how the immune system works. . “

The NCCN Patient Guidelines provide patients and caregivers with an easy-to-read version of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) —The recognized standard for clinical guidance and policy in cancer care. The NCCN guidelines for patients feature graphics, images, and a glossary of medical terms, and include suggested questions for the physician.

NCCN Patient Guidance: GVHD is available free online at and via the NCCN Patient Guides for Cancer Application, thanks to funding from the NCCN Foundation®. The NCCN’s growing library of patient guidelines includes more than 60 frequently updated books for patients and caregivers covering most major types of cancer, including most types of leukemia and lymphoma. There are additional guides covering cancer distress, nausea and vomiting, and survival (both healthy lifestyle & late and long-term effects of cancer), as well as special considerations for adolescents and young adults in all types of cancer.

Learn more and help support these and other resources for people with cancer and their caregivers at

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About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a non-profit alliance of leading cancer centers dedicated to patient care, research and education. The NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, efficient, equitable and accessible cancer care so that all patients can live better lives. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) provide transparent, evidence-based expert consensus recommendations for cancer treatment, prevention and support services; they are the recognized standard for clinical direction and policy in cancer management and the most comprehensive and frequently updated clinical practice guidelines available in all areas of medicine. the NCCN guidelines for patients® provide specialist information on cancer treatment to inform and empower patients and caregivers, with support from the NCCN Foundation®. The NCCN is also making progress continuing education, global initiatives, Politics, and research collaboration and publication in oncology. Visit for more information and follow the NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorg, Instagram @NCCNorg, and Twitter @NCCN.

About the NCCN Foundation

The NCCN Foundation® was founded by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) to empower people living with cancer and advance innovation in oncology. The NCCN Foundation empowers people with cancer and their caregivers by providing unbiased expert advice from the world’s leading cancer experts through the NCCN’s library of patient guidelines® and other patient education resources. The NCCN Foundation is also committed to advancing cancer treatment by funding promising young researchers across the country at the forefront of cancer research. For more information on the NCCN Foundation, visit

[1] Arai S, Arora M, Wang T et al. Growing incidence of chronic graft-versus-host disease in allogeneic transplantation: a report from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. Biol blood marrow transplant. 2015 Feb; 21 (2): 266-74. Available at:


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