Treatment for Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD)

Treatment for Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD)

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The treatments for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) depend on which part of the body is affected and how severe the symptoms are.

When GVHD goes untreated, it increases the risks of dying from transplant complications. It’s also linked to significant health problems and a lower quality of life.

With ongoing monitoring and a multidisciplinary team of experts who know how to manage this disorder, the problems linked to GVHD may improve and even go away. The sooner treatment begins, the better your outcome will be. Most people are in treatment for 2 to 3 years, but some people require longer treatments.

For GVHD, you may receive:

Systemic therapy:

  • treatment with oral or intravenous (IV) steroids
  • treatment with ibrutinib (Imbruvica®), a drug that affects your immune cells
  • treatment with ruxolitinib (Jakafi®), a drug that is anti-inflammatory and suppresses your immune system
  • treatment with belumosudil (Rezurock®), a drug that decreases inflammation and fibrosis (when tissue becomes damaged or scarred)

You may also receive other treatments depending on which organs are affected.

For skin GVHD, you may receive:

  • treatment with steroid creams or ointments
  • treatment for open wounds
  • light therapy
  • treatment for hair loss or nail changes

For gastrointestinal (gut) GVHD, you may receive:

  • drugs to prevent nausea
  • drugs to treat loss of appetite
  • drugs to treat diarrhea

For muscle, fascia, and joint GVHD, you may receive:

  • physical therapy

For other types of GVHD, you may receive:

  • diuretics (drugs to treat fluid buildup)
  • vitamin K
  • drugs to help balance liver enzymes
  • treatments for dry, irritated eyes or mouth
  • photopheresis (also known as extracorporeal photochemotherapy or ECP, a type of blood-filtering treatment)
  • physical therapy

As part of your care, we will regularly assess your quality of life. You may also have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for treatment of GVHD, if one is available.