Posts Tagged ‘BMT’

Bicyclist with a mission comes to Emory

Cindy and Amy Giver

Cindy Giver, Emory researcher, with her sister Amy at the end of her long bicycle journey

Amy Giver estimates she rode her bicycle some 6,000 miles over the past five months on a mission to raise awareness and recruit new donors for the national bone marrow donor registry. The registry, operated by the Be The Match organization, matches unrelated donors to people with life-threatening blood cancers who need a bone marrow transplant.

After traversing the country from the West Coast to the East Coast, Giver wrapped up her journey at Emory University Hospital, where she was greeted by her sister, Cindy Giver, a Winship Cancer Institute researcher, and taken up to the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center in the hospital to be welcomed and congratulated by staff and patients.

Giver, a CrossFit trainer, says when she first learned how matched unrelated donors can save the lives of people with leukemia and other blood cancers, she took up the cause at her gym in Silicon Valley and signed up 80 members to the registry. That convinced her to combine a lifelong goal, cycling across the USA, with a mission to support Be The Match donor drives in communities around the country. The more potential donors in the registry, the better chance patients have of finding a match.

Amy’s sister Cindy has been a bone marrow transplant researcher at Winship for 15 years.  Giver and her colleagues in the lab of Edmund K. Waller, MD, pursue translational research aimed at improving outcomes and lessening side effects from bone marrow and stem cell transplantation. Winship’s bone marrow transplant program is a leader in this area of cancer treatment, having performed almost 5,000 transplants.

Amy ended her ride just in time to attend the annual Be The Match Soirèe that took place Sept. 19 in Atlanta. The event recognized Winship’sAmelia Langston, MD, interim chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology in the Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the Winship Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program. Langston was awarded the 2015 Be The Match Leadership Award for her outstanding commitment to the organization and to advancing bone marrow transplant research and treatment.

Read the original article posted in the Emory News Center.

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Be a Donor—Save a life!
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Emory’s Bone Marrow Transplant Team Turns Despair Into Hope
From Hospice Care to Healthy with Bone Marrow Transplant
Emory Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Story: Georgia Teacher Finds Perfect Match Across the Globe

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient StoryErin Blonshine, a 29 year old teacher from Dacula, Georgia, was diagnosed at 21 with AML, a form of Leukemia. Across the globe, Johannes Saur from Ulm, in southern Germany had joined his country’s bone marrow registry at the age of 18, and at 20, when Erin was diagnosed, Johannes got a call that he was a match for an American. At that time, Erin’s cancer went into remission before the transplant was needed, but a year later, it resurfaced. “Her leukemia relapsed, and we knew that the only potential cure was a transplant,” says Amelia Langston, MD, Medical Director of Winship’s Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center. In August of 2009, Johanne’s bone marrow was flown to the U.S. for Erin’s transplant, and today, she has made a complete recovery. “5 years, for most leukemia survivors, means cure. It means we’re done worrying about the leukemia,” says Langston. If Erin ever wondered if her perfect match was out there, now she knows. To learn more about Winship’s Bone Marrow Transplant Center and Erin’s journey to recovery after her transplant, check out the video story from Fox 5 News below:

Be a Donor—Save a life!

Emory Bone Marrow Transplant Center logoAs medical director of the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center at Winship, I oversee a potentially lifesaving procedure that offers hope for survival to many patients with bone marrow disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome, immune deficiency and other blood diseases. Some patients can use their own cells for the transplant, but others require a donor because their own marrow or immune system is diseased. In this sort of transplant, the patient’s sick marrow is destroyed, and replaced by the donor’s normal marrow and immune system. If it works, it can cure a person who may not have other options!

Who can be a donor?

The best bone marrow or stem cell donor is a compatible brother or sister. Unfortunately, most people who need a transplant don’t have a brother/sister match, so we have to go to the Be The Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, to try to find a compatible donor.

What is the Be The Match Registry?

The registry is really a large database of people who would be willing to serve as donors for patients who need a transplant and don’t have a family donor. The database is set up in such a way that doctors can search for the most compatible potential donors based on typing that is done when a person joins the registry.

What do I have to do to join the registry?

There are several different ways to join the registry: you can sign up online, you can attend a donor drive, or you can sign up when you donate blood. What’s required is some simple health information to make sure you are eligible to be a donor, and a sample of either blood or a scraping from the inside of your cheek. The sample goes to a lab for typing, and that typing information goes into the database.

What if I match someone who needs a transplant?

First you would be contacted by the donor center and asked to come in to provide a second confirmatory sample. If you are a confirmed match, you would be called again and asked to go through a full medical examination, more blood work, an EKG, and a chest Xray. If you pass all of the tests, you can be the donor!

How does the donation itself work?

You could be asked to donate stem cells (think of them as marrow seeds) from either the bone marrow or the blood. If you donate marrow, you would be taken to the operating room and marrow would be extracted from the hip bones (under anesthesia). The extraction takes an hour or two, and you would go home that same evening. If you donate blood stem cells, you would first take growth factor shots for a few days, and then on the day of the donation you would be connected to two IV lines so that your blood could be circulated through an apheresis machine that extracts the stem cells and then returns the rest of your blood back to your system. The whole process takes about four hours, and most of the time can be done in a single day.

Many of our patients mark the day they get a bone marrow or stem cell transplant as a second birthday, a literal re-starting of their immune system and a new chance at a healthy life. Registering to be a donor is an invaluable gift to them.

This Weekend!

Winship staff are teaming up for the Be The Match Walk/Run in Atlanta on Sat., April 26. This fundraiser supports Be The Match Registry, the largest and most diverse donor registry in the world. For more information, go to

About Dr. Langston

Dr. Amelia Langston, MDAmelia Langston, MD, a Winship hematologist and medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma, is medical director and section chief of the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center, which has performed over 4,000 transplants for patients with blood cancers and diseases. She is also a professor of hematology and medical oncology in the Emory School of Medicine.

Dr. Langston’s research interests include novel strategies for autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation, use of biologically targeted agents for anti-leukemic therapy, and prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients.

Dr. Langston received her MD from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Durham North Carolina, followed by a Medical Oncology fellowship at the University of Washington Hospitals.

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Emory’s Bone Marrow Transplant Team Turns Despair into Hope

Debbie Barth suffered from aplastic anemia, a disease in which bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells, and she was getting worse. She had had blood infusion after blood infusion, but they no longer helped her. She was possibly facing death after two years of living with the illness.

Debbie was being treated at an Atlanta hospital where doctors told her they would not give her a bone marrow transplant, which was her only real hope for surviving the chronic condition that was stealing more of her life each day.

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

Debbie Barth, pictured at far left behind her mother Joanie, with family.

“I was at the end of my rope, and they wouldn’t even take me,” Debbie said, still incredulous that she could be turned away for what could be live-saving care.

Fortunately for Debbie and her family, someone told her about Dr. Edmund K. Waller at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center. She made an appointment to see him, and that’s when everything changed.

Debbie’s mother Joanie went to the appointment with her. Debbie was again skeptical to hear what a doctor had to say, but this time it was good news. “I can’t tell you how I felt when we got into that room with him that first day,” said Joanie Barth.

“Instead of saying there was no hope,” she recalls, with the help of a bone marrow transplant, “Dr. Waller said my daughter had a “50% to 80% chance of survival.”

“And I said, ‘Dr. Waller, can you tell me whether it’s closer to 50 or 80?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Ms. Barth, Debbie is going to make it.’”

“I just started crying and crying because for the first time, we had hope,” Joanie Barth said. “When he spoke the whole room just filled with hope.”

Many patients like Debbie, who had been told she was too high-risk for a transplant, arrive at the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center having exhausted all other options and time. Some have been turned away from other bone marrow treatment centers because their cases are extremely complicated, or because their prognoses are not good. Now, for patients like Debbie, there is hope.

The Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center is one of the most experienced in the nation, with a team of dedicated physicians who treat patients and not just the disease. With experience unmatched in the Southeast for treating hematologic cancers, the Winship team is expert in treating the even the most complicated of cases. This fall, Winship physicians will perform their 4,000th bone marrow transplant.

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Winship Central to New Study Evaluating Bone Marrow vs. Blood Stem Cell Transplant

Patients with leukemia or blood-related cancers are typically treated with one of two techniques, either a bone marrow transplant, or a blood stem cell transplants. Currently, there are many studies are currently being conducted to determine which option is right for each patient type.

Past studies have shown that when blood stem cell (as opposed to bone marrow) transplants are used between HumanLeukocyte Antigen (HLA)-identical siblings, or siblings whose tissue is immunologically compatible,  the engraftment process is accelerated. Engraftment is when the donated cells, in this case, blood stem cells, begin to grow and produce their own new blood cells. However, with this benefit, there can be some risk. Studies have also shown that when blood stem cell transplants are used, the risk of acute and chronic graft-versus-host-diseaese (GVHD) is increased when compared to GVHD rates experienced by patients who receive bone marrow transplants. Other studies have demonstrated that patients with high-risk leukemia experience a decreased rate of relapse and improved survival rates from of blood stem cell transplant. Because these two treatment options have varying benefits and risks depending on unique patient circumstances, ongoing research is being conducted to better understand those potential benefits and  risks.

Edmund K. Waller, MD, Winship Cancer Institute

Edmund K. Waller, MD
Director of Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant
Winship Cancer Institute

Edmund K. Waller, MD, Director of the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Center at Winship Cancer Institute, was a key author and researcher in a study published on October 18, 2012, in the New England Journal of Medicine that could influence whether leukemia and blood-related cancer patients receive transplants from blood stem cells or bone marrow.

The study reported on the first randomized trial comparing bone marrow with peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) for unrelated-donor transplantation. The trial involved 48 centers enrolling 551 patients as part of the Bone Marrow and Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN). Dr. Waller helped design the study, and his lab at Winship analyzed the cells in each type of graft as the central core lab for the trial.

The study found no significant difference in the overall survival rate at two years, and no difference in relapse rates or in acute graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). It did, however, find a significantly higher rate of chronic GVHD among patients receiving blood stem cell transplants.

Because GVHD can be a difficult and sometimes life-threatening complication from transplants, this finding could result in patients and their physicians choosing different treatments. At the very least, this finding will generate serious discussion among leaders in the transplant field about whether bone marrow or PBSC transplantation is a better treatment option.

Chronic GVHD starts more than three months after a transplant and can severely diminish a patient’s quality of life over his or her lifetime. Dr. Waller says the study leads him to believe that since the survival rates are the same, bone marrow should be the standard for the majority of unrelated-donor transplants. Exceptions to this would be patients with life-threatening infections and patients at high risk for graft rejection.

Winship played a key role in this study and, according to Waller, is part of on-going BMT CTN studies that will help shape transplant protocols and outcomes.

“This is an outstanding example of Winship investigators leading in the resolution of major questions in cancer care,” said Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, Deputy Director of the Winship Cancer Institute, and Chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University. “Dr. Waller and his colleagues have helped define a major question, namely, whether patients who receive grafts from unrelated donors should receive peripheral stem cells or cells from the bone marrow harvest of others. This is paradigm shifting work, and Dr. Waller and his colleagues are to be congratulated for their foresight and persistence in answering this important question.”

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The Bone Marrow Transplant Olympic Games – Hoola Hoop Any One?

While the 2012 Summer Olympic Games continue in London, staff at Emory University Hospital are partaking in their own Olympic games. Dr. Amelia Langston, Medical Director of the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center has started an initiative that’s literally bringing the Olympics back to Atlanta, with the Bone Marrow Transplant Olympics. While the event doesn’t include your typical line-up of Olympic sports, Emory Healthcare staff, patients and even family members can participate in fun, lighthearted competition such as: hula hoop contests, bedpan shuffleboard and wheelchair races.

Bone marrow transplant patients and their family members often experience long weeks (and sometimes even months) of treatment. “People come in here and they are very sick and they stay for a long time. If we can lighten things up a little bit, if we can make it a little more fun for them, if we can make it a little more fun for the staff who take care of these people, day after day, sometimes for weeks or months at a time, then it’s a good thing.” Dr. Langston stated.

You can learn more about the Winship Cancer Institute Bone Marrow Transplant Program by watching this video, or by using the related resources links provided below the video.

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