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"Mini-Transplants" Offer New Hope for Older Cancer Patients

PHILADELPHIA (March 28, 2003) — Patients in their 50s and 60s with blood malignancies, such as leukemia and lymphoma, traditionally have not been eligible for bone marrow or stem cell transplants. Now, new advances allow Fox Chase-Temple's Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program to offer these patients "mini-transplants," a less toxic, and often more successful procedure than traditional bone marrow transplants for treating blood cancers.

"Because mini-transplants are much less toxic than traditional transplants, we're able to offer this procedure to older patients (up to age 70), even when they have other underlying medical complications," said Kenneth F. Mangan, M.D., director of the Fox Chase-Temple BMT Program.

A traditional allogeneic (use of stem cells from related and unrelated donors) bone marrow transplantation requires the patient to receive high doses of radiation and chemotherapy, which destroys the bone marrow, the cancer in the bone marrow, and the immune system. A new immune system is created with the transplanted donor stem cells.

"For a mini-transplant, the patient receives low doses of radiation or chemotherapy, which suppresses, but doesn't destroy the immune system," explained Mangan. "This allows us to transplant either matched-related or unrelated stem cells. The goal is to create a new, cancer-free immune system that allows patients to fight the cancer. The donor cells actually attack the malignant cells."

A mini-transplant is performed as an inpatient procedure with significantly fewer side-effects and shorter hospitalization than a traditional allogeneic stem cell transplant.

"We've had amazing successes over the last four years with mini-transplants," Mangan said. "We regularly see continuous, complete remissions when using a mini to treat most forms of blood cancers. Many patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphomas are also benefiting, as are patients with mantle cell lymphoma, a previously incurable malignancy."

Other cancers currently being treated with mini-transplants include chronic myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, auto myelogenous leukemia, multiple myeloma, follicular (low grade) lymphomas, and large cell lymphomas. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 106,200 cases for blood-related cancers will be diagnosed this year.

For more information about allogeneic stem cell mini-transplants, call the Fox Chase-Temple Bone Marrow Program at 215-214-3100.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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