MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. in collaboration with John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., announce the 100th blood stem cell transplant performed since the BMT program’s first patient was treated in September, 2013. The patient, a woman from Arlington, Virginia, received her blood stem cell transplant at MedStar Georgetown as a treatment for multiple myeloma diagnosed in December 2016.
The BMT program at MedStar Georgetown is a joint effort with specialists from Hackensack John Theurer Cancer Center and a key component of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only cancer program in the Washington, D.C. region designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a comprehensive cancer center.
“Once considered experimental, BMT is today’s established gold standard for treating patients with a number of malignant and other non-malignant diseases of the immune system, blood, and bone marrow, including multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and acute and chronic leukemia. For some conditions, blood stem cell transplant can provide a cure in patients who have failed conventional therapies,” says Scott Rowley, MD, chief of the BMT program at MedStar Georgetown as well as a member of the John Theurer Cancer Center’s Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation. “For some conditions, it can actually be a cure; for others, it prolongs survival and improves quality of life. Having performed 100 BMTs at MedStar Georgetown including allogenic transplantation illustrates the strength and maturity of our program achieved in rather short time.”
MedStar Georgetown’s program is also the only comprehensive BMT center within Washington, D.C. and southern Maryland with accreditation from the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) for adult autologous procedures, where the patient donates his or her own cells.
The BMT program at JTCC is one of the top 10 transplant programs in the United States, with more than 400 transplants performed annually.
A BMT involves a two-step process: first, collecting bone marrow stem cells from the patient and storing them for future use. Then, a week or so later, patients receive high dose chemotherapy to eliminate their disease. The previously stored cells are reinfused back into the bloodstream, where after reaching the bone marrow, they begin repopulating and allow the patient to recover their blood counts over the following 2 weeks.
“Even though BMT is considered standard therapy for myeloma worldwide, in the United States fewer than 50 percent of the patients who could benefit from BMT are referred for evaluation,” says David H. Vesole, MD, PhD, Co- Chief and Director of Research of John Theurer Cancer Center’s Multiple Myeloma division and director of MedStar Georgetown’s Multiple Myeloma Program.
“That’s mostly due to physicians’ concerns that a patient is too old or compromised from other health conditions like diabetes, cardiac disease or renal failure. But new techniques and better supportive care have improved both patient outcomes and the entire transplant process, extending BMT to more patients than ever before.”
The MedStar Georgetown/Georgetown Lombardi Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Program is part of a collaborative cancer research agenda and multi-year plan to form an NCI-recognized cancer consortium. This recognition would support the scientific excellence of the two centers and highlight their capability to integrate multi-disciplinary, collaborative research approaches to focus on all the aspects of cancer.
The research areas include expansion of clinical bone marrow transplant research; clinical study of “haplo” transplants — use of half-matched stem cell donor cells; re-engineering the function and focus of key immune cells; and the investigation of “immune checkpoint” blocking antibodies that unleash a sustained immune response against cancer cells.
“In this partnership, we’ve combined John Theurer’s strength in clinical care with Georgetown Lombardi’s strong research base that significantly contributes to clinical excellence at MedStar Georgetown. By working together, we have broadened our cancer research to offer more effective treatment options for tomorrow’s patients,” says Andrew Pecora, MD, FACP, CPE, president of the Physician Enterprise and chief innovations officer, Hackensack Meridian Health. “This is one of many clinical and research areas that have been enhanced by this affiliation.”
“Our teams are pursuing specific joint research projects we feel are of the utmost importance and significance in oncology particularly around immuno-oncology as well as precision medicine,” says André Goy, MD, MS, chairman of the John Theurer Cancer Center and director of the division chief of Lymphoma; chief science officer and director of Research and Innovation, RCCA; professor of medicine, Georgetown University. “Together our institutions have a tremendous opportunity to transform the delivery of cancer care for our patient populations and beyond.”