Bone marrow transplantation was one of the greatest breakthroughs in recent history that completely revolutionized blood cancer treatment for illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Essentially, these transplants have increased the survival rates of some blood cancer patients from almost 0% to a staggering 85%.

However, there is one major danger — BMT patients are at risk of developing graft versus host disease (GvHD), which is a severe and life-threatening complication that happens when the donor’s cells (graft) identify the recipient (host) as a foreign body. 

Unfortunately, the mortality rate of GvHD is high — more than 90% in grade 4 GvHD. 

Researchers have discovered that despite the immunosuppressive treatments, as much as 30% to 50% of patients who receive transplants from fully matching siblings, and 50% to 70% of patients who receive a transplant from an unrelated donor, develop some degree of GvHD. Moreover, there are no FDA-approved therapies that prevent or treat this condition as of yet.

This is why Kalytera Therapeutics — a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company that’s paving the way in cannabinoid therapeutics with their CBD-based therapeutics for treating severe and life-threatening illnesses — is developing a treatment that would mitigate the effects of GvHD following bone marrow transplantation.

Their program for treating GvHD with CBD is in the late-stage testing phase and is showing considerable promise. Namely, it’s based on their Phase 2a clinical trials that observed 48 patients who had a bone marrow transplant. Also, CBD is well-known for its potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and the study results confirmed this. 

In a nutshell, CBD showed amazing results. They found that 46% of the historical control group developed grade 2–4 acute GvHD, whereas only 12% of study participants who used CBD as a form of treatment developed the condition. Additionally, 10% of the historical control group developed grade 3–4 acute GvHD, compared to only 5% of participants who used CBD.

Furthermore, the onset of GvHD of those who developed it was more prolonged with the use of CBD — 60 days for the CBD group compared to 20 days for the control group. In addition, researchers also claim that the risks of developing the condition were significantly reduced by day 100.

But wait, there’s more! 

Helping prevent and hinder the development of GvHD were not the only benefits of CBD. Patients who used CBD had less gastrointestinal and skin issues, compared to the control group. Plus, the participants tolerated the treatment fairly well.

The second and third Phase 2a study also showed remarkable results. The mortality rate over the course of a 12-month period among patients with grade 3 and 4 GvHD who don’t respond to steroids exceeds 60% and 80%, respectively. Nevertheless, 13 months after the study had been finished, 26 out of the 29 patients from the control group died as a result of GvHD, whereas only 2 patients who used CBD died from GvHD complications.

The FDA has encouraged the company to apply for Breakthrough Therapy and Fast Track Designations, which could accelerate the approval process, judging how the results of these studies show that CBD treatment could greatly improve both the BMT patients’ life quality and life expectancy.