Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

Exploring new treatments for CMV

Cytomegalovirus, CMV, is a common herpes virus that can be dangerous for immunocompromised people such as those receiving stem cell transplants.  Recently, researchers found that a drug normally used in treating leukemia, imatinib, blocks the action of a certain human protein that CMV needs to infect human cells.  A group of researchers led by VIDI member Dr. Michael Boeckh wondered if imatinib might be used to treat CMV.

To address this question, they looked for CMV positive people with specific types of leukemia (acute lymphocytic leukemia or chronic myeloid leukemia) who had received stem cell transplants at the Center between 2004 and 2008.  They found 22 past patients who had been treated with imatinib and 71 who had not, and looked to see whether the drug made a difference in CMV reactivation or disease.  They found that imatinib seemed to have no effect on either.  While the study was small, their results suggest that the drug does not dampen CMV infection.

The effect of imatinib on cytomegalovirus reactivation in hematopoietic cell transplantation.  Travi G, Pergam SA, Xie H, Carpenter P, Kiem HP, Corey L, Boeckh MJ.  Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Dec 1;49(11):e120-3.