St. David's HealthCare
September 17, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas—The Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center recently enrolled the first patient in the world to participate in a drug trial to treat a potentially fatal complication from allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplants, or stem cell transplants using donated stem cells.

The hospital is one of 130 sites worldwide to participate in this study on the drug Itacitinib, which is being investigated as a treatment for chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD). cGVHD is a condition in which the peripheral blood stem cells that make up the donated bone marrow attack the patient’s healthy tissue and organs. If not effectively treated, this disease can impair organ function or lead to organ failure.

Aravind Ramakrishnan, M.D., a stem cell transplant physician and medical director of the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, is the principal investigator for the trial.

“cGVHD remains a major contributor to transplant-related deaths and is one of the most significant barriers to successful transplants using donated stem cells,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said. “This drug may provide an additional treatment option to patients in our community.”

Standard treatment of moderate and severe cGVHD involves a class of drugs called corticosteroids, which includes cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone. However, prolonged exposure to high doses of corticosteroids has been associated with a number of significant adverse effects, including cardiovascular complications.

“Corticosteroids are profoundly anti-inflammatory and broadly immunosuppressive,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said. “As such, these drugs may increase the risk of cardiovascular effects, including fluid retention, arrhythmias, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.”

The GRAVITAS-309 clinical trial is expected to be completed in 2023.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, which is part of St. David’s HealthCare, is a 334-bed acute care facility offering a range of complex specialties and sub-specialties, including a nationally accredited oncology program with the area’s only adult bone marrow transplant program; a trauma program that includes a Level II trauma center to treat the most severely injured and critical patients; a comprehensive cardiac program; full-service maternity and newborn care with Level I and II nurseries; and three full-service emergency centers in the communities of Bee Cave, Bastrop and Buda.

Sarah Cannon

Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, offers integrated cancer services with convenient access to cutting-edge therapies for people facing cancer in communities across the United States and United Kingdom. Sarah Cannon’s cancer programs include individualized patient navigation provided by oncology-trained nurses, more than 1,100 stem cell transplants performed annually throughout the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Network, hundreds of clinical trials, and molecular profiling capabilities. Through its services, Sarah Cannon is providing state-of-the-art cancer care close to home for hundreds of thousands of patients, a number unmatched by any single cancer center. To learn more about Sarah Cannon, visit

St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas joins national research network for maternal-fetal medicine and obstetrics

Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center opening new Electrophysiology Center

tags: research