On the heels of receiving new certification from the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) to perform adult allogeneic transplants, Perlmutter Cancer Center is significantly expanding its Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.
The program performs autologous and allogeneic transplants in adults and autologous transplants in children to treat the full spectrum of blood-borne cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Autologous transplants involve using a patient’s own blood and blood byproducts, while allogeneic transplants use those of an appropriate donor.
The Blood and Marrow Transplant Program is led by nationally renowned hematologist–oncologist, Samer Al-Homsi, MD, MBA, who joined Perlmutter Cancer Center—one of the 70 cancer centers across the country designated by the National Institutes of Health—in June 2017 to lead the program. Just in the past 12 months, more than 70 patients have received blood and marrow transplants at Perlmutter Cancer Center, which are performed in the specially designed Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplant Center, located in the brand-new Kimmel Pavilion on NYU Langone’s main campus in Manhattan.
Based on pioneering work done at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center, the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program also offers haploidentical transplantation to patients. Haploidentical transplantation vastly expands the potential donor pool for patients who require a transplant.
“Typically, when you do a transplant, you need to have a full tissue match between the donor and recipient. Alternatively, we can now use haploidentical, or ‘half-match,’ transplants,” Dr. Al-Homsi says. “This transplant option will go a long way in overcoming the limitations of finding the right donor. Patients who have difficulty finding perfect matches will have more options, meaning that we can treat their cancer more effectively.”
Transplantation uses healthy hematopoietic precursor cells, or stem cells, to help fight cancer and replace unhealthy bone marrow.
Dr. Al-Homsi also does research that focuses on preventing graft-versus-host disease, or GvHD, a potentially life-threatening complication of blood and marrow transplant. He has led clinical trials examining innovative combinations of medications to prevent GvHD, including cyclophosphamide and proteasome inhibitors. Such combinations can prevent the use of other extended and burdensome prophylactic traditional agents and are applicable to people with limited kidney function, who are often denied blood and marrow transplants.
The Blood and Marrow Transplant Program works closely with the Clinical Leukemia Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center, led by Raoul Tibes, MD, PhD. Dr. Al-Homsi evaluates leukemia patients who require transplantation after their initial treatment provided by the hematologist–oncologists in the leukemia program.
“The Clinical Leukemia and Blood and Marrow Transplant programs really go hand-in-hand, and care for many of the same patients,” says Dr. Tibes. “We take a collaborative approach, helping patients from their first visit through their entire treatment. In many ways, one program cannot be fully effective without the other, and vice versa.”
“Our understanding of hematologic malignancies has advanced greatly over the past decade, to the point that many blood-borne cancers are curable,” says Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, director of Perlmutter Cancer Center. “Bone marrow transplantation plays a critical role in these advances. Dr. Al-Homsi’s research holds tremendous promise to curtail negative interactions between host and transplanted cells and make this form of treatment safer and more effective.”
With expanded services, a new physical location for the transplant center, cutting-edge discoveries transitioning from bench to bedside on a regular basis, and a comprehensive clinical team delivering unparalleled care through the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, the number of patients entering remission continues to grow.