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Transplants can save cancer patients.

Physicians and scientists are using many techniques to fight cancer. One of those is bone marrow transplantation, a method used to treat nonsolid tumor cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Bone marrow transplantation is a fairly new procedure--between 10 and 15 years old. In its pioneering period, only relatively young people could be helped with matching bone marrow from a donor. Today, individuals up to the age of 75 can be treated and the bone marrow can be their own, cleansed and prepared for reentry into the body. Added to autologous transplantation with the patient's own marrow, there is allogeneic transplant using someone else's marrow, and now miniallogeneic.

"The knowledge about bone marrow transplantation is expanding every day," notes Ruthee-Lu Bayer, director of the Don Monti Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit, North Shore University Hospital Manhasset, N.Y. "In certain cases, we can perform transplantation again on those who are no longer in remission and we can now treat other nonsolid tumor diseases such as testicular cancer."

Patients are referred for transplantation by their oncologists and they must be responsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapies. Before the transplantation treatment is begun, extremely heavy doses of chemotherapy are administered to destroy the immune system and put the patient in remission. Traditionally, the elderly cannot tolerate such strong doses, so a lesser level of medication is administered. The patient receiving an autologous transplant requires between three weeks to three months to recover; those getting an allogeneic transplant usually need up to a year.

Bone marrow transplant patients must remain in germ-free isolation for a period of time after the procedure because of their depressed immune systems. "More and more transplantation is becoming the treatment of choice," Bayer reports. "I believe with the new advances, this may well be the [wave] of the future."

How to Become a Donor

1. National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) donor center representatives explain the donation process. After you consent to being listed on the Registry, you give two to three tablespoons of your blood.

2. Your marrow type is specified and entered into the NMDP registry. Your blood is tested to ascertain its human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. The results are added to NMDP's main computer, which is accessed internationally on behalf of patients who need a marrow transplant.

3. You are contacted it a preliminary match is found. If the computerized registry indicates that your marrow may match any of the patients in need, your donor center coordinator informs you of your status and arranges additional testing.

4. A compatible match is identified. Further testing may indicate that your precise HLA type is compatible with the patient. Special counselors provide you with detailed information about the marrow donation process and your options. You receive a thorough physical examination.

5. You decide to donate.

6. In the hospital, physicians extract a small amount of marrow from the back of your pelvic bone using a special needle and syringe. A donor is under anesthesia during this surgical procedure.

7. Typically, a donor stays in the hospital overnight. After being discharged, you can resume normal activity, although you may experience some soreness for several days. Your marrow naturally replenishes itself within a few weeks.

For further information, call 1800-Marrow-2.
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Title Annotation:Bone Marrow
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:541
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