Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), the major complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, affects the skin, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. There are no plasma biomarkers specific for any acute GVHD target organ. We used a large-scale quantitative proteomic discovery procedure to identify biomarker candidates of skin GVHD and validated the lead candidate, elafin, with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in samples from 492 patients. Elafin was overexpressed in GVHD skin biopsies. Plasma concentrations of elafin were significantly higher at the onset of skin GVHD, correlated with the eventual maximum grade of GVHD, and were associated with a greater risk of death relative to other known risk factors (hazard ratio, 1.78). We conclude that elafin has significant diagnostic and prognostic value as a biomarker of skin GVHD.
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