The Ferrara Laboratory investigates the immunobiology of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, commonly referred to as bone marrow transplantation (BMT). First utilised over 50 years ago, allogeneic BMT represents one of the earliest forms of stem cell therapy, cancer immunotherapy, and personalized medicine. Much of the success of allogeneic BMT in treating hematologic malignancies derives from the powerful graft versus leukemia effect exerted by donor T cells. But donor T cells also mediate graft versus host disease (GVHD), the major toxicity of BMT, which can be lethal.
Using pioneering proteomic techniques, the lab has identified and validated unexpected biomarkers for skin, gut, and steroid-resistant GVHD. We have used exceptionally large and informative biorepositories to meld the most informative biomarkers into the first algorithm that predicts lethal GVHD prior to the onset of symptoms. The capacity of biomarkers to guide therapy is the driving force that led to the establishment in 2014 of MAGIC (Mount Sinai Acute GVHD International Consortium), a consortium of twenty-five BMT centers in the USA, Europe and Asia that conducts clinical trials to prevent and treat acute GVHD.
Concurrently, the lab’s elegant mechanistic studies, using in vitro assays and in vivo murine models, have illuminated novel interactions between the innate and adaptive immune systems and have led to both conceptual breakthroughs and the discovery of new therapeutic targets.