These Cells Can Stem Blood Cancer

Leukemia patients have improved outcomes with blood stem cell transplants

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Being diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma can be a major life change for patients. With new advances in medicine, they may have some respite. 

Blood stem cell transplants are one of the treatments of choice for life-threatening blood cell disorders, including blood cancers.

A recent study has found that the number of blood stem cell transplants being done has increased significantly in the past decade.

Results from this study suggest that blood stem cell transplants can lead to significant improvement in survival outcomes. 

"Ask your oncologist about stem cell transplants."

The study was conducted by Theresa Hahn, PhD, Philip McCarthy, MD, of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Minneapolis, and colleagues in collaboration with the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The objective of the study was to examine changes in the use, method and survival rates of blood stem cell transplants to treat patients with blood cancers and lymphomas. Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system, a network of vessels that is part of the immune system.

A blood stem cell transplant involves injecting healthy stem cells from a donor into the patient’s body. The goal of this procedure is to replace the patient’s stem cells that aren’t working with healthy stem cells from a donor.

The data for the study came from CIBMTR, which is a collaborative effort of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The CIBMTR has a database of more than 330,000 transplant recipients.  

The researchers looked at the outcomes of around 38,000 blood stem cell transplant patients. Study participants had been treated for life-threatening blood cancers and other diseases over 12 years between 1994 and 2005.

The stem cell transplants came from either someone related to the patients or from an unrelated person who was a perfect match.

There was an overall increase in patients receiving transplants during the study period.

One hundred days following the transplant, the survival rates for patients treated for myeloid leukemias (AML) improved significantly for those who received related transplants (from 85 percent in 1995 to 94 percent today) as well as for those patients who received unrelated transplants (from 63 percent to 86 percent).  

One year after the transplant, the survival rate for patients who had received a transplant from an unrelated donor improved from 48 to 63 percent. There was no change in survival rates for those who received related transplants.

The researchers observed similar results for other types of leukemia and blood disorders with abnormalities in bone marrow cells.

In a press release, Dr. Hahn said, “This study shows that we are making significant progress, on a national level, in survival after transplantation. Patients across the country have benefited from the collaborative efforts of the CIBMTR, the NMDP and clinical researchers at individual transplant centers. Our results demonstrate that these efforts have yielded improvement in early survival rates, and we will continue to work together to further improve long-term survival.”

In the same press release, study co-author Navneet S. Majhail, MD, MS, medical director at the National Marrow Donor Program said, “The significant improvements we saw across all patient and disease populations should offer patients hope and, among physicians, reinforce the role of blood stem cell transplants as a curative option for life-threatening blood cancers and other diseases."

DailyRx contributing expert Manali Patel, MD, MPH,  instructor of Oncology at Stanford University said, "The current study is an incredibly important one as it highlights the advancements in transplantation that have led to the improved survival outcomes from this treatment.  The important question remains whether these outcomes translate to all patients regardless of race or socioeconomic status."

The study was published May 28 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The study was funded by Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) with additional funding from the pharma industry, foundations and philanthropy.

Only two of the co-authors reported financial relationships including Steven Joffe (Consulting with Genzyme/Sanofi-Aventis), Christopher Bredeson (Honoraria from Sanofi-Aventis and research funding from Otuska). There were no other conflicts of interest reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 4, 2013
Last Updated:
August 7, 2013