While patients are increasingly receiving hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) to treat their cancers or certain other serious conditions, HCT survivors face increased risk of developing chronic health problems that require lifelong medical follow-up, according to City of Hope researchers.
The scientists presented their findings at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta on Dec. 11.
“Advances in cancer research and treatment have allowed more people to overcome and survive their diagnosis, but all cancer survivors, especially those who have undergone HCT, need regular medical follow-up for the rest of their lives so we can help maintain their quality of life,” said Can-Lan Sun, M.D. Ph.D., assistant research scientist in the Division of Population Sciences and the study’s lead author.
“We wanted to learn what health issues most affected HCT patients, because no study has yet assessed the long-term morbidity of these survivors, or attempted to identify which patients may be at highest risk,” she added.
The study, conducted with the University of Minnesota, examined 1,013 survivors who underwent HCT between 1974 and 1998. HCT is also often known as bone marrow transplantation. Researchers looked at how many survivors experienced severe or life-threatening conditions such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, second cancers and kidney failure, and then compared that to the survivors’ 309 siblings.
The most frequently reported conditions were cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal problems and significant hearing or vision impairments. Among the HCT survivors, 69 percent had at least one chronic condition, which meant the HCT survivors at a 2.5-fold increased risk of developing at least one chronic health condition compared to their siblings.
About 29 percent of the HCT survivors reported a severe or life-threatening condition, which represented a 5-fold increased risk comparing to their siblings.
“HCT survivorship can be counted in decades now, and the chronic health burden carried by this group is significant,” said Sun. “We’ve made great inroads into successfully treating cancer patients, and we should put as much effort into care for cancer survivors. Additional studies that monitor and evaluate the health and quality of life of cancer survivors will help to ensure that patients thrive after treatment.”