Circulating endothelial cell count: a reliable marker of endothelial damage in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

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Abstract

The physio-pathologic interrelationships between endothelium and GvHD have been better elucidated and have led to definition of the entity ‘endothelial GvHD’ as an essential early phase prior to the clinical presentation of acute GvHD. Using the CellSearch system, we analyzed circulating endothelial cells (CEC) in 90 allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) patients at the following time-points: T1 (pre-conditioning), T2 (pre-transplant), T3 (engraftment), T4 (onset of GvHD) and T5 (1 week after steroid treatment). Although CEC changes in allo-HSCT represent a dynamic phenomenon influenced by many variables (that is, conditioning, immunosuppressive treatments, engraftment syndrome and infections), we showed that CEC peaks were constantly seen at onset of acute GvHD and invariably returned to pre-transplant values after treatment response. Since we showed that CEC changes during allo-HSCT has rapid kinetics that may be easily missed if blood samples are drawn at pre-fixed time-points, we rather suggest an ‘on demand’ evaluation of CEC counts right at onset of GvHD clinical symptoms to possibly help differentiate GvHD from other non-endothelial complications. We confirm that CEC changes are a suitable biomarker to monitor endothelial damage in patients undergoing allo-transplantation and hold the potential to become a useful tool to support GvHD diagnosis (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02064972).

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