Local News

New Procedure Allows More To Benefit From Bone Marrow Transplants

Posted September 20, 2001

— Julius Dix, 69, will never forget the day doctors told him he had leukemia.

"I was also told that it's a terminal illness and I had about three to five years to live," he remembers.

Bone marrow transplants can help save the lives of people with leukemia and lymphoma, but many times people like Dix are not candidates because they are either too old or too sick.

Standard bone marrow transplants use high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. A new variation -- called the Mini BMT -- uses less radiation and chemotherapy. Less toxic, it is often ideal for older patients.

"By having this technology available, it allows us to actually offer potentially curative therapy to a part of the population that has never really benefited before from what we really have to offer," says hematologist Dr. Stephen Fornan.

It has been one year since Dix's transplant, a procedure which put his cancer in remission.

"It also gave me a chance to improve the quality of my life," Dix says.

So far, the results are good.

Doctors warn it is too early to know for sure just how successful these mini-transplants will be.

"We're just at the beginning of this," Fornan says. "We have patients that have been success transplantations one, two, three years after transplants. We want to be sure that five, 10, 15 years from now they're OK."

One of the reasons doctors believe they have been so successful is because the donor's bone marrow has a built-in immune system which helps kill off cancer cells.

Even though only a few cancer centers in the country are doing Mini-BMT's, the Triangle is a leader in this approach.

Duke, Wake Forest, and UNC are working togehter to expand the approach to those adults with sickle cell disease as well.

Dr. Dave Rizzieri of Duke University says patients should ask their physicians to discuss their case with any one of the major medical centers in the state to see if they are eligible for this approach.


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