Etretinate therapy for refractory sclerodermatous chronic graft-versus-host disease.
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Chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is the most common late complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). The sclerodermatous form of the disease is often refractory to standard treatment modalities. Based on reports of response to etretinate, a synthetic retinoid, among patients with scleroderma, we have added etretinate to the treatment regimen of 32 patients with refractory sclerodermatous chronic GVHD. This case series is comprised mainly of patients who had chronic GVHD of long duration (median of 30 months before the initiation of etretinate). Most had failed to respond to three or more agents before etretinate treatment was started. Clinical response was assessed after 3 months of therapy. Five patients did not complete a 3-month trial. Among the 27 patients evaluable for response, 20 showed improvement including softening of the skin, flattening of cutaneous lesions, increased range of motion, and improved performance status. Four showed no response after 3 months of therapy and 3 had progression of their sclerosis. Overall, etretinate has been fairly well tolerated in our patients, with skin breakdown and/or ulceration leading to its discontinuation in 6 patients. We believe the results in our patients are encouraging and suggest that further evaluation of etretinate in the treatment of sclerodermatous chronic GVHD is warranted.
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