Cord Blood Program Expands

Cord Blood Program Expands, Providing Greater Hope for Stem Cell Transplant Patients

With the support of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, the stem cell-cord blood program at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) is expanding, allowing for further stem cell transplant research and more potential matches for patients in need.

When searching for a blood match seven out of ten people will have to look outside their family with only a 30% to 35% chance of success with the unrelated bone marrow donor registry. Fortunately, the National Marrow Donor Program has built a worldwide network and supply of umbilical cord blood—this is the blood that remains in the placenta or cord after childbirth which has an abundance of blood-forming cells that can be used in transplants for patients with a variety of life-threatening diseases, including leukemia and lymphoma. The preservation of cord blood provides the opportunity to match a patient, who may not have a sibling or unrelated donor, with blood for transplantation.

The Transplant Program at NSUH has operated for over 30 years, and in 2009 provided a record 70 transplants to patients. The cord blood program expansion will include the appointment of an additional nurse transplant coordinator and the promotion of major research initiatives. The transplant program will now have two transplant nurse coordinators: an autologous (transplant using the patient’s own cells) and an allogeneic (transplant using cells donated by other individuals) nurse transplant coordinator. Both will work together to help provide pre-transplant, peri-transplant and post-transplant care for patients, and the allogeneic nurse coordinator will also focus on cord blood transplant options for patients. Both nurses will serve as liaisons between the patient and community, while acting as health care advocates and educators, and will help increase participation in new and ongoing research studies.

“Expanding our cord blood program will allow us to offer the life saving procedure of transplantation to more patients,” said Ruthee-Lu Bayer, MD, chief of bone marrow transplantation for the Don Monti Bone Marrow Transplant Program at NSUH. “Having two transplant nurse coordinators will allow us to better educate and prepare our patients and families for the incredible journey ahead of them.”

Going forward, the Transplant Program seeks to provide clinical research tools and practices to patients. An upcoming priority research initiative is the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinical Research Program, in which researchers will better understand the treatments that most effectively improve outcomes for transplant patients by studying past transplant patients’ experiences and outcomes with clinical trials and treatment results. Findings will directly contribute to knowledge about which patients are likely to benefit from transplantation, and eventually help patients to achieve better results from treatment.