Algorithm aims to provide earlier treatment for bone marrow complications

Recently I wrote about a novel project that was using AI to ensure organ transplants are more successful.  The Australian research team used the kind of AI algorithms that underpin many modern dating sites to try and improve organ acceptance and ensure a more accurate connection between organ donors and recipients.

“It’s a specially designed machine learning algorithm using multiple donor and recipient features to predict the outcome,” the team say.

Now, a team from Mount Sinai Health System have used a similar machine learning based approach to predict whether blood cancer patients will accept bone marrow or develop complications as a result.

Accept or reject

The project, which was published in a recent paper, examined the blood samples of around 1,300 bone marrow transplant patients.  The analysis found that two proteins can predict whether patients develop lethal complications if drawn from the blood a week after the transplant.

This insight is crucial because it normally takes weeks for symptoms of graft-versus-host disease to appear.  The algorithm, which the team have dubbed MAGIC (after Mount Sinai Acute GVHD International Consortium – the team’s name), looks for the ST2 and REG3a proteins.

“The MAGIC algorithm gives doctors a roadmap to save many lives in the future. This simple blood test can determine which bone marrow transplant patients are at high risk for a lethal complication before it occurs,” the team say. “It will allow early intervention and potentially save many lives.”

Early diagnosis

The next step is to test whether drugs that are usually administered for this condition will also work at this early stage of diagnosis.  The hope is that by administering the treatment at this very early stage, the chances of success rise considerably.

“This test will make bone marrow transplant safer and more effective for patients because it will guide adjustment of medications to protect against graft-versus-host disease,” the researchers say. “If successful, the early use of the drugs would become a standard of care for bone marrow transplant patients.”

The issue has serious implications, as between 40-60% of patients who receive bone marrow transplants develop severe graft-versus-host disease, and of these, 40% eventually die from it.  Hopefully attacking the disease at this earlier stage will improve those odds.

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