Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Expertise Stands Out at Transplant Meeting

Pictured: Sergio Giralt

Adult Bone Marrow Transplantation Service Chief Sergio Giralt

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s achievements in blood and marrow stem cell transplantation are taking center stage at the 2014 BMT Tandem Meeting, a joint conference of the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) and the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), which starts today and goes through March 2.

At the meeting, in the Dallas area, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Adult Bone Marrow Transplantation Service Chief Sergio Giralt will assume his role as ASBMT President for the coming year, while Richard O’Reilly, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Chief of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Service, will deliver one of the featured lectures. Dr. O’Reilly founded the then-combined adult and pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering more than 30 years ago as one of the original transplant centers in the United States. Since that time, the program has pioneered many significant advances in the field, including the first transplant of bone marrow from an unrelated donor to a patient in 1973.

In addition, Memorial Sloan Kettering physician-scientists Robert Jenq and Yusuke Shono will be presenting two of the six “best abstracts” highlighted at the meeting, which were chosen from a total of 528 abstracts submitted from 30 countries. Finally, Memorial Sloan Kettering physician-scientist Alan Hanash will receive a $240,000 award from the Amy Strelzer Manasevit Research Program, one of the largest research grants in blood and marrow transplantation.

“I am very proud that the ASBMT has chosen to honor so many of our physician-scientists at this year’s meeting,” says Marcel van den Brink, head of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Division of Hematologic Oncology. “Over the years, my colleagues have made pioneering contributions to the development of stem cell transplantation as a lifelong treatment for immune deficiencies, leukemia, and other blood disorders. We look forward to many more years of groundbreaking research that we anticipate will result in even greater improvements for patients.”

Leadership Roles Recognized

Dr. Giralt is renowned for his work in the development of nonmyeloablative marrow transplantation, which led to an increase in transplants for a broader group of patients. During his one-year term as ASBMT President, Dr. Giralt will work collaboratively with members to further the society’s goals of promoting all aspects of blood and marrow transplantation, including cellular therapy research, education, scholarly publication, and clinical standards.

“The field of blood and marrow stem cell transplantation is undergoing a transformation, as new therapies using immune T cells are bringing exciting changes to how we look at treatment,” Dr. Giralt says. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring cutting-edge therapies to as many people as possible. We are also investigating ways to reduce barriers to care through innovations that can move some treatments to an outpatient basis and enhance support options for people who have no one available to help them through the transplantation process.”

The E. Donnall Thomas Lecture, which Dr. O’Reilly will deliver February 28, recognizes an eminent physician or scientist who has contributed meritoriously to the advancement of knowledge in blood and marrow transplantation. In his lecture, Dr. O’Reilly will review the history of T-cell-depleted marrow transplantation. In this type of transplant, developed at Memorial Sloan Kettering by Dr. O’Reilly and his colleagues, T cells are removed from the donor’s stem cells before the transplant.

This T-cell-depleted approach has proven to be an effective way to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a serious complication that occurs when donor T cells see the transplant recipient’s body as foreign and attack its tissues. Dr. O’Reilly will also discuss cellular therapies he and his colleagues are developing that could be used to enhance the resistance of marrow transplant recipients not only to serious infections but also to their underlying cancers.

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“Best Abstract” Presentations

Both “best abstract” presenters, Dr. Jenq and Dr. Shono, are conducting research in the Sloan Kettering Institute laboratory of Dr. van den Brink.

In his presentation, Dr. Jenq will discuss a new strategy for reducing GVHD risk by regulating the bacteria that live in the transplant recipient’s intestinal tract. Dr. Jenq’s research shows that the abundance of a type of bacteria called Blautia appears to protect against GVHD, suggesting that intervening in some way to prevent Blautia loss could significantly reduce this complication.

GVHD is also the focus of the abstract to be presented by Dr. Shono, who will discuss his research suggesting that autophagy — a process in which a cell under stress breaks down its own components to recycle them for energy or to destroy an infectious agent — protects against GVHD. His findings suggest that preserving autophagy in transplant recipients could alleviate the effects of GVHD.

To get live updates from the meeting, you can follow Drs. Giralt and van den Brink, as well as Deputy Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service Chief Miguel-Angel Perales on Twitter, at @sgiraltbmtdoc, @DrMvandenBrink, and @DrMiguelPerales, respectively.

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Commenting is disabled for this blog post.

medicare wont pay for bone marrow transplant.

Joe, Medicare does cover transplants in certain situations. If you have insurance-related questions you can contact Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Insurance Information line at 646-497-9176. If you want further information about Medicare coverage, you may also want to contact the Medicare information line at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Thank you for your comment.

Joe: medicare did cover me and I am now alive and well with no sign of leukemia. It is almost 2 years after my transplant and i am working again .
Keep fighting !

does the hospital do stem cell transplant for acute kidney failure

Maya, thank you for your comment. We passed your question on to Miguel Perales, Deputy Chief of our Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service, and he responds:

Although there is a lot of interest in regenerative medicine and the ability to regenerate organs from stem cells, I’m not aware of hematopoietic stem cell transplant currently being used for acute renal failure. Investigators are trying to use stem cells derived from kidneys to regenerate kidney tissue but most of this work is still in animal models, as far as I know. The program at Massachusetts General Hospital has performed combined stem cell transplant and kidney transplant from the same donor, but this would typically be in end stage renal disease. When it comes to doing a stem cell transplant in a patient with kidney failure. We would not do it in someone with acute renal failure, but stem cell transplants have been done in patients on dialysis, for example due to multiple myeloma or amyloidosis.

I have Primary Progressive MS. I spend hours upon hours researching my disease. MS may be considered an autoimmune disease and I've been told stem cell replacement does not work in my case. In my opinion, I feel it is caused from a virus that may still be active in my body, such as EBV. My MS has progressed to the point that I am getting 1000 mg of Rituxin every six months to suppress my autoimmune system which in turn kills my immune system. Leaving me defenseless against any other diseases. My specialist insists as long as I keep up this treatment, the progression should slow down. The first time I walked into the infusion center holding my husband's hand for balance. I am now being wheeled in with a wheelchair. This is not my idea of a treatment that slows down progression. I don't have unrealistic expectations. I don't expect to get better, but with every rituxin treatment I feel worse, weaker, and sicker every 6 months. Then it's time for another infusion. It's exhausting. My question is: Say for example, my EBV antibodies are extremely high, would I be a candidate for a stem cell/bone marrow transplant from a third party donor whose healthy and has a low EBV antibody count? I already have a donor. Would it be possible to replace my T cells with his? I'm desperate and would try this or any other treatment, a doctor at your center would be willing to try and thinks there's the slightest chance it would work or even be more proactive than my current treatment. Again...I do not expect to be cured from this disease, but if their was a better way to slow down the progression other than chemotherapy, I would be willing to take the chance with any form of treatment.

Thank you

Dear Nicole, we are sorry to hear about your diagnosis. At MSK, our focus is caring for patients with a diagnosis - or strong suspicion - of cancer. We recommend that you request a second opinion of possible treatment options from a specialist at a center that treats people with your condition. We wish you well and thank you for reaching out to us.