BMT Reunion 2024

2 Patients Meet Their Donors During Emotional Reunion

For the first time since the pandemic, thousands of bone marrow transplant recipients, their donors and family members joined together on City of Hope’s Los Angeles campus to celebrate life

More than 4,000 blood cancer survivors beamed as they walked the blue carpet to cheers from nurses and other staff during City of Hope’s 48th Annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on Friday, May 3.

BMT Reunion 2024
City of Hope nurses and other staff cheered on patients as they walked the blue carpet. 

Wearing large buttons proudly proclaiming the year of their “tranplantaversary,” patients, alongside family members and friends, converged on the campus for the first full reunion since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic. They enjoyed a barbecue lunch and cupcakes, musical performances by fellow survivors and a pep talk by former Dodger Rick Monday. 

“Today is a moment in our lives and in the life of this institution where we pause to reflect — along with our patients, their families, everyone who works here to cure disease — on one special life at a time. It is on such a day that we are reminded of the uniqueness of each individual person who comes to us for help, and we extend our hands to theirs and together embark on a sometimes very frightening journey — but one that is always imbued with hope,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Hematologic Malignancies Research Institute.

Forman BMT
Stephen J. Forman, M.D.

“As we all know, without such a gift, our patients would not be alive, and the lives of their families and their worlds would be changed forever,” he added. “The work that we do here is not limited by barriers of border, or age, gender, ethnicity or how or where we pray. What we do here is transcendent. It binds us all together in a greater human family.”

Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D., president of City of Hope Los Angeles and City of Hope National Medical Center, chief physician executive and Deana and Steve Campbell Chief Physician Executive Distinguished Chair, noted that bone marrow transplantation is “one of the most difficult, most complex therapies that we offer.” Dr. Van den Brink has dedicated much of his research to finding ways to optimize bone marrow transplant outcomes while minimizing side effects. 

Dr. Forman added, “It is a unique combination of science and love that brings us all here.”

Pediatric ALL Patient Meets 24-Year-Old Donor

The festivities kicked off with what is always the highlight of the event: the moment two transplant recipients meet their donors for the first time. 

Up first was Tammy Wang, 9, who was diagnosed with rare and aggressive Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia in China at age 4. On a friend’s advice, the family came to the United States in order to seek care for Tammy, their only child, at City of Hope. Tammy relapsed two years after enduring chemotherapy, leaving a bone marrow transplant as her last best option. Tammy would first need CAR T cell therapy to put her into remission. From there, she was matched with a donor and received her lifesaving transplant. 

Jessica Mun BMT
Tammy Wang embraces her donor, Jessica Mun, with her mother, Yi Wang, enjoying the moment. 

That was two years ago, and Tammy is now a happy, healthy third-grader living in Rancho Cucamonga, California, who delights in tickling her care team’s elbows, according to her doctor, Nicole Karras, M.D., a City of Hope Children’s Cancer Center pediatric hematologist: “No one is safe from Tammy the Tickler.” 

“Even though she is quiet, you can tell she knows she is safe here and that, with some transplant magic, her cancer journey is behind her,” Dr. Karras added. “And that is the ultimate measure of success.”

Tammy and her parents were thrilled to meet her donor, Jessica Mun, a 24-year-old medical technician from Chicago, who said becoming Tammy’s donor was “a decision made without any hesitation. All I wanted was for Tammy to have the opportunity to live life to her fullest potential, and my only wish is for her to continue to smile, laugh and thrive, and also have experiences that help shape her into a wonderful individual.”

Tammy’s father, Yi-Tong Wang, described how, in his worst moment of despair after Tammy’s diagnosis, “God told me, 'Dr. Karras is coming.’ So, I brought Tammy to City of Hope, the best hospital in the world. When Tammy’s cancer came back, I felt so bad, again. This time, Dr. Karras told me, ‘Don’t worry — Jessica is coming.’” 

“I think Jessica is an angel sent by God to save Tammy’s life, to save my family. There are not enough words to express my appreciation for this gift, but I still say thank you,” he said.

CML Patient United With Young Donor

Next, Dr. Forman introduced his own patient, Terry Greene, 71, who came to City of Hope in 2020 suffering from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.

In late 2021, Greene’s cancer began to accelerate, so a transplant donor was sought. He received his transplant in January 2022. During a check of Greene’s bone marrow this last January, tests showed him to be in complete remission, with blood that today solely contains the DNA of his donor.

Terry Greene BMT
Terry Greene greets his donor, Noam Biton. 

“Now he’s a guy who’s older with the blood of a 20-year-old,” Dr. Forman remarked, noting that City of Hope was one of the first cancers centers in the United States to do research on how to perform successful transplants in older patients. “When we started in the 1970s,” Dr. Forman said, “we wouldn’t do transplants in patients over 30, or in children. Now we do transplants on toddlers all the way to people in their eighties.”

Greene called his experience at City of Hope the perfect “trifecta” of institution, physician and donor. “I consider the staff here the greatest people in this world. Dr. Forman is without a doubt the greatest person that I have met in my life,” he said.

Upon meeting his fully matched but unrelated donor, 24-year-old student Noam Biton, who flew in from Israel, Greene was overcome with emotion.

'It is a unique combination of science and love that brings us all here.'
Stephen Forman, M.D.

“What a beautiful gift he presented to me,” he said. “I’ve received nice presents in my day. But nothing like what Noam brought to me. Bringing one the gift of life is insurmountable. And it’s something that we should all cherish as individuals. Noam, you are the most beautiful person, worthy of all the great things that the world will bring you. Thank you, Noam. There are no other words that I can express.”

In turn, Biton called the meeting “a great privilege for me and an amazing moment.”

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity you gave me to do something meaningful with my life, for such a special person,” he continued. “I take upon myself the responsibility to continue spreading the word about the importance of bone marrow donation wherever I go. It’s such a small and simple operation, and the result is so great and significant and, most important, lifesaving.

“There are those who are related by blood. But you and I share the same blood," he added, addressing Greene. "For me, it’s an equally strong bond. Hope I managed to pass on the good part of the family blood, as my mother always says.

"To all the staff at City of Hope: Keep doing blessed work, because there’s nothing more important than this.”

People interested in joining a bone marrow/stem cell registry can join at or