DUARTE, Calif., January 13, 2011—City of Hope, which helped pioneer bone marrow transplantation three and a half decades ago, performed its 10,000th transplant on Jan. 13, becoming one of the first institutions in the world to reach this milestone. Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation—collectively known as hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)—is a complex, often lifesaving procedure in which stem cells are used to help cure patients of their cancer. It is most often used for patients battling diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
“Day to day, our work is all about a single life at stake that we’re trying to save,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. “Reaching 10,000, you think about the many people—children and adults—who have benefited from City of Hope’s care and research the many wonderful people who have come here trusting us to care for them, hoping for a cure.”
In the nearly 35 years since City of Hope physicians performed one of the nation’s first successful bone marrow transplants, the institution has helped transplantation evolve into a gold standard treatment for several diseases.
On Jan. 13, 2011, City of Hope performed its 10,000th transplant on a patient with advanced leukemia who received stem cells from an unrelated volunteer donor who was a compatible match.
City of Hope performed its first successful bone marrow transplant in 1976 on a young college student from Indiana who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His physician told him he should prepare himself for inevitable death. But his cousin, a physician in Los Angeles, knew that City of Hope was launching a bone marrow transplant program. The young student went to City of Hope to undergo a bone marrow transplant, and he has remained in remission for 35 years.
Each year, he and thousands of other survivors, their families and hospital staff attend City of Hope’s Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, a rite of spring held on the Duarte, Calif. campus.
City of Hope currently performs nearly 500 bone marrow transplant procedures each year. During transplant, patients typically undergo high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation that helps eradicate the cancer cells but also destroy their bone marrow and immune systems. Patients then receive stem cells from one of several sources which then rebuild their blood and immune systems. Different sources of stem cells can be utilized depending on the disease and the availability of stem cell donors. Autologous transplants isolate and use the patient’s own healthy stem cells. Related donor allogeneic transplants use donor stem cells from a compatible relative or sibling, while unrelated donor allogeneic transplants use cells from altruistic volunteers who registered themselves as potential bone marrow donors. Umbilical cord blood stem cells also can be used. City of Hope recently was recognized by the National Marrow Donor Program registry as the only center in 2010 to achieve above average survival rates in unrelated transplants for five consecutive years.
“All of our research and treatment efforts reflect our commitment to patients and their families—recognizing each of them as a dignified human being with a story to tell and a life to live,” said Forman. “They also are our partners in developing new therapies for those who will come to us tomorrow for care. There are a significant number of people who are alive today because they were and are a part of something we did at City of Hope that was both bold and new.”
City of Hope laboratory and clinical scientists continue to make transplants safer and more effective, and help extend the length and quality of patients’ lives. New transplant procedures are improving cure rates, extending the procedure to older patients and expanding the use of transplants to diseases beyond leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
City of Hope virologists were among the first to develop an investigational vaccine to prevent cytomegalovirus, a potentially deadly infection to HCT patients. City of Hope researchers also are developing genetically modified T cells that can specifically recognize cancer cells and help improve the cure rate of transplant. They also created a technique combining HIV-fighting gene therapy with HCT to cure patients of AIDS-related lymphoma while blocking the virus causing AIDS. City of Hope scientists also are investigating using radioimmunotherapy instead of total body radiation in which engineered immune molecules deliver targeted radiation directly to cancer cells in the transplant patient.