Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division’s Hill wins publication prize

Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation editors select Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Joshua Hill for best clinical science article by a new investigator
Dr. Joshua Hill, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division
Dr. Joshua Hill, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division's Dr. Joshua Hill is the recipient of the Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation's 2012 George Santos Award for best clinical science article by a new investigator.

The editors of the journal, a publication of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, selected Hill, a senior fellow in VIDD's Clinical Research Program, for his article "Cord-Blood Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation Confers an Increased Risk for Human Herpesvirus-6-Associated Acute Limbic Encephalitis: A Cohort Analysis." 

Hill found that patients who receive unrelated cord-blood transplants are at particularly high risk for reactivation of human herpesvirus-6. They are also at risk for an associated complication called post-transplantation acute limbic encephalitis. Together the two are called HHV-6-PALE for short. 

"HHV-6 is a ubiquitous virus that irreversibly infects the majority of children by 2 years of age and usually remains dormant throughout a person's life," Hill said. "However, it has been associated with many conditions ranging from seizures to chronic fatigue syndrome. In our cancer patients with weakened immune systems who receive a stem cell transplant, it is particularly problematic and can cause a fatal central nervous system infection in up to 5 percent of certain patient groups."
Hill and colleagues analyzed 1,344 patients undergoing stem cell transplantation to identify risk factors and characteristics of HHV-6-PALE. The group included 1,243 adult-donor transplant recipients and 101 unrelated cord blood transplant recipients. They identified 19 cases of HHV-6-PALE that occurred in 10 percent of the cord blood transplant recipients and 0.7 percent of adult-donor transplant recipients. Death from HHV-6-PALE occurred in 50 percent of affected patients who underwent cord blood transplants. None of the adult-donor transplant recipients died from the syndrome.

The award honors the late Dr. George Santos, who in 1968 founded the bone marrow transplantation program at Johns Hopkins. The presentation of a plaque and $5,000 took place Feb. 15 during the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation Awards and Business Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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