The importance of endothelial protection: the emerging role of defibrotide in reversing endothelial injury and its sequelae

Paul G. Richardson, Marta Palomo, Nancy A. Kernan, Gerhard C. Hildebrandt, Nelson Chao, Enric Carreras

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hepatic veno-occlusive disease/sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (VOD/SOS), a potentially life-threatening complication of hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), results from prolonged sinusoidal endothelial cell activation and profound endothelial cell damage, with sequelae. Defibrotide, the only drug approved in the United States and Europe for treating VOD/SOS post-HCT, has European Commission orphan drug designation for preventing graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), associated with endothelial dysfunction. This endothelial cell protector and stabilizing agent restores thrombo-fibrinolytic balance and preserves endothelial homeostasis through antithrombotic, fibrinolytic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-adhesive activity. Defibrotide also preserves endothelial cell structure by inhibiting heparanase activity. Evidence suggests that downregulating p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) is key to defibrotide’s endothelial protective effects; phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt (PI3K/AKT) potentially links defibrotide interaction with the endothelial cell membrane and downstream effects. Despite defibrotide’s being most extensively studied in VOD/SOS, emerging preclinical and clinical data support defibrotide for treating or preventing other conditions driven by endothelial cell activation, dysfunction, and/or damage, such as GvHD, transplant-associated thrombotic microangiopathy, or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy-associated neurotoxicity, underpinned by cytokine release syndrome and endotheliitis. Further preclinical and clinical studies will explore defibrotide’s potential utility in a broader range of disorders resulting from endothelial cell activation and dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2889-2896
Number of pages8
JournalBone Marrow Transplantation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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