BMT Program at MedStar Georgetown Completes 100th Blood Stem Cell Transplant

Inês Martins, PhD avatar

by Inês Martins, PhD |

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100th blood stem cell transplant

John Theurer Cancer Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital have announced the completion of the 100th blood stem cell transplant since its joint Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program treated the first patient in September 2013.

The 100th patient, a woman from Arlington, Virginia, received blood stem cell transplant as a treatment for multiple myeloma, diagnosed in December 2016

The BMT Program is a key service of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only comprehensive cancer center in the Washington, D.C., area that is designated as such by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“Once considered experimental, BMT is today’s established gold standard for treating patients with a number of malignant and other non-malignant diseases of the immune system, blood, and bone marrow, including multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and acute and chronic leukemia. For some conditions, blood stem cell transplant can provide a cure in patients who have failed conventional therapies,” Scott Rowley, MD, MedStar’s chief of the BMT Program, said in a press release. “For some conditions, it can actually be a cure; for others, it prolongs survival and improves quality of life. Having performed 100 BMTs at MedStar Georgetown including allogenic transplantation illustrates the strength and maturity of our program achieved in rather short time,” he said.

A bone marrow transplant needs three stages: (1) collecting bone marrow stem cells from the patients themselves and storing them for future use; (2) about a week later, receiving a concentrated dose of chemotherapy to eliminate disease, and; (3) re-infusing stored stem cells back into patients’ bloodstream, where they should repopulate after reaching the bone marrow. Normal blood counts should be recovered within two weeks.

“Even though BMT is considered standard therapy for myeloma worldwide, in the United States fewer than 50 percent of the patients who could benefit from BMT are referred for evaluation,” said David H. Vesole, MD, PhD, John Theurer’s co-chief and director of research. “That’s mostly due to physicians’ concerns that a patient is too old or compromised from other health conditions like diabetes, cardiac disease or renal failure. But new techniques and better supportive care have improved both patient outcomes and the entire transplant process, extending BMT to more patients than ever before.”

The collaborative effort is part of a long-term plan to form cancer consortium that is recognized by the NCI. The recognition would support not only scientific excellence, but it would allow the centers to include collaborative methods in areas like clinical bone marrow transplant research, clinical study of “haplo” transplants (using half-matched cells), re-engineering of key anti-cancer immune cells, and investigation of immune checkpoint inhibitors that unleash sustained immune responses against cancer.

“Our teams are pursuing specific joint research projects we feel are of the utmost importance and significance in oncology particularly around immuno-oncology as well as precision medicine,” added André Goy, MD, chairman of John Theurer. “Together our institutions have a tremendous opportunity to transform the delivery of cancer care for our patient populations and beyond.”