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Stem Cell Transplantation Safe For Elderly Patients

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Feb. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers have shown that stem cell transplantation for elderly patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), is safe and effective, according to research presented last week in Salt Lake City at the 2013 BMT Tandem Meetings, the combined annual meetings of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) and the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research.

Prior to this study, little was known about the safety of stem cell transplants in patients over the age of 70, who may have previously been excluded as candidates for stem cell transplantation because of their age.

This news about stem cell transplants comes as Robin Roberts returns as a host of Good Morning America tomorrow, five months after her successful transplant for MDS, a pre-leukemia blood disease that affects healthy blood cell formation in the bone marrow.  Although Roberts is younger, more than 80% of newly diagnosed MDS cases occur in people over the age of 60.

According to the research presented at the BMT Tandem Meetings, 56 patients age 70 or older, most of whom received transplants for acute leukemia or MDS, were identified for the study.  After being treated with low doses of chemotherapy and radiation, the majority of the patients received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant from a matched unrelated donor, while the remainder of the group received a transplant from a matched related donor.  Among the findings in 46 patients who experienced nadir (when blood cell counts are at their lowest):

  • the median time for blood cell counts to return to normal was 13 days;
  • one year after transplant, the incidence of chronic graft-versus-host disease, a common transplant complication, was 37%;
  • the incidence of survival without disease progression one year after transplant was 42%;
  • the incidence of overall survival one year after transplant was 55%;
  • the cumulative incidence of relapse was 34%;
  • at day 100, a critical time for stem cell transplants, the incidence of non-relapse mortality was only 3.6%; and
  • the incidence of non-relapse mortality one year after transplant was only 5.5%.

"Particularly newsworthy in this year in which we celebrated the performance of the 1 millionth transplant worldwide were the presentations related to increasing the use of stem cell transplantation in older patients with acute leukemia and MDS," said Sergio Giralt, MD, president-elect of the ASBMT and the hematologist/oncologist who performed Roberts' stem cell transplant.  "This abstract presented at the BMT Tandem Meetings demonstrates the feasibility and relatively good outcomes of patients over the age of 70 undergoing stem cell transplantation for a variety of blood cancers."

The BMT Tandem Meetings abstract book is published as a supplement to the February issue of Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the ASBMT.  The study, led by Andrew Brunner, MD, was conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, both located in Boston.

The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation is an international professional membership association of physicians, investigators and other healthcare professionals promoting blood and marrow transplantation and cellular therapy research, education, scholarly publication and clinical standards.

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