Stem Cell Transplants Rise Among Older Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 18, 2016

Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology (DF/NHOH). Patient Shirley Clark (consent # 6228) with Garrick Johnson, PA.

Stem cell transplantation has grown among older patients largely due to the development of reduced-intensity transplants.

Stem cell transplantation following chemotherapy can extend survival and potentially cure certain advanced cancers. Although these demanding procedures were once considered too risky for older patients, advances in transplant methods are challenging that assumption.

“In transplants involving donor cells, there was concern that older patients wouldn’t be able to tolerate the high doses of chemotherapy traditionally used,” explains Joseph Antin, MD, chief of the Adult Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC)

“Older patients were also thought to be more at risk from graft-versus-host disease,” a sometimes severe condition in which immune system cells in the transplanted tissue attack the patient’s own tissue, Antin adds.

Now, due largely to the development of reduced-intensity transplants, which use lower doses of chemotherapy than standard transplants, greater numbers of older people nationwide are getting transplants. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, for example, 1,627 patients 55 and older underwent transplants between 2011 and 2015, compared to 964 between 2006 and 2010.

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Advances in Stem Cell Transplants

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 23, 2015

The average age of transplant recipients in the Stem Cell Transplantation Program today has increased to 55 to 60 years of age.

Contributor: Joseph Antin, MD, is Chief and Program Director for the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

A stem cell transplant is a lifesaving treatment option that provides healthy stem cells for patients with blood cancers and other diseases. In the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, one of the largest such programs in the world, specialists perform more than 550 transplants each year. The Program has grown substantially over the past few decades.

“A lot has changed since we started our program in 1972,” explains Dr. Joseph Antin, Chief and Program Director for the Stem Cell Transplantation Program. “Advances in technology and our increasing understanding of the underlying biology of the diseases that we treat are enabling us to provide this therapy in cases that we never dreamed possible when we first started offering stem cell transplantation over 40 years ago.”

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