Posts Tagged ‘stem cell transplant’

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!
A Very Happy Re-Birthday for Bone Marrow Transplant Patients & Families
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

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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A Very Happy Re-Birth Day for Bone Marrow Transplant Patients & Families

The Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center of Winship Cancer Institute performed its first transplant in 1979. On Wed., Sept. 25, 2013, it performed its 4000th transplant.

What did that number mean to lymphoma patient Vicky Scott, who was one of three people receiving a transplant on Wednesday?

“It means that four thousand people get to be with their families, and get a new chance at life,” she said from her room in the special transplant unit.

Vicky, a retired nurse from Enterprise, Alabama, was waiting patiently with her husband Richard for unrelated donor bone marrow cells to arrive for her transplant. Although the infusion is a routine procedure, it is a special moment when the transplanted cells start coursing through the bloodstream and head for the bone marrow to re-start the body’s production of white blood cells.

“We have been able to really decrease risk and side effects with our supportive care and better medications,” said Dr. Jonathan Kaufman, who was on service that day in the unit. “By doing that we can open up transplant to a lot more patients.”

Duane Fulk and his wife Sue, in the room next to Vicky, didn’t have to wait long for his autologous transplant, meaning one with his own stem cells.

“I see this as the final treatment, eradication of the mantel cells, and us going forward without looking back over our shoulders,” said Sue, watching the transplant team perform her husband’s procedure. For members of the team, the 4000th transplant represents the fruition of decades of their experience and dedication to caring for patients.

Like many patients, Duane had a sudden onset of illness that signaled something was wrong. It’s been a year since he was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma.

But Vicky has been struggling with auto-immune diseases for years, and in fact received an autologous stem cell transplant ten years ago in Colorado. She has some perspective on how dramatically the procedures and drugs have changed in ten years.

“It’s night and day,” she said. “I was so sick that first time, I didn’t think I was going to make it. This time, I’ve had virtually no side effects from the drugs and other than feeling weak from the disease, I’m in much better shape.”

As Duane neared the end of his transplant, a group of nurses came to his room to sing their own very special version of “Happy Birthday,” a ritual they’ve developed to mark what is for many, a re-birth day.

The lyrics of their song convey the excitement and possibilities of the transplant: “Happy, happy birthday, it’s time to start brand new!”

“The ability to get a transplant represents hope for survival, hope for getting back to life,” said Dr. Jonathan Kaufman.

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From Hospice Care to Healthy with Bone Marrow Transplant

John Seay was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2010 and was successfully treated with chemotherapy at a center near his home in Cornelia, Georgia. But the chemo resulted in a second malignancy that brought him so close to death, doctors sent him home under hospice care.

Fortunately, John heeded a recommendation to seek out Winship’s Dr. Edmund Waller, who saw John as a good candidate for a matched unrelated donor transplant. Learn more about how bone marrow transplant saved John’s life in the video below:

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Support Changes & Saves Lives for Bone Marrow Transplant Patients

William Fuentes, a father of two pre-schoolers and a manager at a McDonald’s, had a very busy life in Calhoun, Georgia, one of Atlanta’s northern suburbs. While his wife took care of the little ones, he still tried to help out around the house while managing the duties of a busy restaurant.

William’s busy life only got more complicated when the 30-year-old was diagnosed in 2012 with multiple myeloma, a disease he had never even heard of. The intense back pain he felt turned out to be a result of the disease. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and then he had to have surgery to repair some of the damage in his back.

And then treatment started. He needed a bone marrow transplant, often a complicated procedure best handled by a team that has a breadth and depth of experience to handle complications that may arise. He turned to the Emory Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

William Fuentes Multiple Myeloma Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

William Fuentes with his family.

William recalls being so afraid and yet wanting to be strong for his children. After they would go to sleep at night, sometimes he cried, he said.

“I just felt so all alone,” William recalls.

But he found the support he received from Winship and the Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center not only saved his life, but changed his life. Enrollment in a clinical trial gave him access to a drug that worked on his type of myeloma, something he may not have received had he been treated elsewhere. Equally important to him was the compassionate care he received from his physician, Dr. Ajay Nooka, and the bone marrow transplant team.

“He is the nicest man I’ve ever met,” William said. “I couldn’t have asked for better treatment,” he says. Winship social workers made sure gas cards were available when funds ran low. A team of employees from the clinical trials unit came together and provided Christmas gifts for the Fuentes family.

“My wife is so thankful. We love it here,” says William.

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Bart Dunn – Celebrating 20 Years as a Leukemia Survivor!

There is a very special moment when a bone marrow transplant patient starts receiving the transplanted cells. Stem cells course through the IV line into the patient’s bloodstream, heading for the bone marrow where they will literally re-start the body’s production of blood, the stuff of life.

So it’s fitting that when that moment arrives, the staff of the hospital’s bone marrow transplant unit crowd into the patient’s room with balloons and sing happy birthday. It is truly a re-birth of life.

Bart Dunn Leukemia Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

Twenty years ago, Bart Dunn had a bone marrow transplant at the Emory Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center with donor cells from his identical twin brother Steven. He was only 35 at the time, working in his family’s century-old manufacturing business in North Carolina.

Diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) at a hospital near his home, Bart was told the best bone marrow transplant (BMT) experts were at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute. He came here needing immediate chemotherapy and radiation treatments to bring his white blood cell count down. It was a long haul before he was well enough to have the transplant. His long-time companion, Patrick, and family members stayed by his side through that very difficult period. For ten days, Bart ran fevers of 105 and says God performed a miracle in bringing him back from the brink.

Bart marked that life-changing moment by giving Winship a plaque commemorating his transplant and recovery. He is now working on a book that recounts his experience.

After Bart’s bone marrow transplant and treatments came to an end, Patrick’s sister, Angie, made a beautiful quilt with figures from the Noah’s Ark story to signify Bart’s new life and new beginning. Bart’s official 20-year anniversary was Feb. 9 this year. He returned to Emory Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center in April for a check-up with Dr. Tom Heffner, and was greeted with a surprise party. Robin LaRocco, nurse coordinator in the bone marrow transplant department, orchestrated the event and members of the BMT team joined the celebration, including several who were here when Bart had his transplant. He invited Winship staffers to sign the quilt that symbolizes his cancer journey.

“It was a very long and difficult journey, but I’m so thankful that I made it through,” said Mr. Dunn.

And for the Emory BMT staff (pictured with Bart below) who specialize in providing the kind of individual care needed during the transplant process, nothing is more gratifying than seeing a former patient doing so well twenty years later.

Bone marrow transplant leukemia

Bart Dunn pictured with the Emory Bone Marrow Transplant Team.

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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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