Hematopoietic cell transplants, often called bone marrow transplants, can save the lives of people with blood cancers or other serious blood disorders — but they’re not without their challenges.
Smita Bhatia, left, and Can-Lan Sun (Photo by p.cunningham)
Transplant survivors know they’re likely to face health problems in the years after their procedure. City of Hope scientists Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, and Can-Lan Sun, M.D., Ph.D., associate research professor in population sciences, recently showed how important and widespread those health problems can be.
In the largest study of its kind, and the first to look at transplant recipients a decade or more after treatment, the researchers found that seven out of 10 of these patients had chronic health conditions 15 years after transplant.
Bhatia and Sun don’t want to discourage patients from getting transplants. Rather, they want to inform them, their families and health-care providers about potential long-term complications.
“Hematopoietic cell transplants have helped thousands of patients survive cancer and are a critical lifesaving and curative option, yet we need to be cognizant that the burden of chronic illnesses borne by these survivors is substantial,” Bhatia says.
Patients may face increased risk of a wide range of challenges like bone loss, muscle weakness, lung disease and cardiovascular problems. Their risk of new cancers and psychological problems also rises. But regular, thorough monitoring by physicians can help patients avoid and minimize complications by catching the first signs of disease.
Want to find out more about long-term health for transplant survivors? City of Hope offers a survivorship clinic for childhood cancer survivors treated at City of Hope. And the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research offers recommended guidelines for long-term follow-up care for transplant patients online.