Bone marrow transplants are undertaken to treat a number of diseases, including leukemia, Hodgkins disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood disorders.
“This is a significant milestone for Emory University Hospital,” says Robert Bachman, chief operating officer for Emory University Hospital. “Thousands of people have benefitted from Emory’s contributions to advancing this life-saving procedure.”
Bone marrow serves as the body’s factory for blood cells. It produces stem cells, which eventually become blood cells that perform many different functions, including infection control. Hematologic cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma affect the bone marrow and consequently the production of new blood cells. By replacing a person’s diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a donor, doctors are able to regenerate the critical function performed by marrow.
The first-ever successful bone marrow transplant took place in 1968. Emory’s first bone marrow transplant was conducted in 1979 by Elliott Winton, MD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute. In the 31 years since that first transplant, Winton and the BMT team at Winship have made considerable contributions to continuing development of this process.
“Our participation in national, international and institutional clinical trials assures that we offer patients the latest knowledge in stem cell biology and transplant immunology,” says Edmund Waller, MD, PhD, director of Emory’s Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center. “We also collaborate in clinical and basic science research through a number of national and international organizations.”
Research is underway to make bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell and cord blood transplants safer and more effective. Recent advances include new combinations of chemotherapy that increase the likelihood of a successful transplant. In addition, Emory physicians are testing how to combine kidney transplants with bone marrow transplants from the same donor to reduce the possibility of immune system rejection, or graft versus host disease.
Waller points out that Emory’s leadership in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation has been fostered these many years through an unwavering commitment to patients and progress. “Physicians like Rein Saral, MD, who led the bone marrow transplant section in the early 1990s and currently serves Winship as senior associate director, made tremendous progress in these difficult to treat hematologic diseases,” Waller says. “We owe a great deal to Dr. Saral, Dr. Winton and many others.”
The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children’s Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.