New technique increases success of bone marrow transplants
February 14, 1998
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EST (0337 GMT)
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- When someone has leukemia, bone marrow transplants are the best hope for survival.
But there are some major obstacles -- it's very difficult to find a well-matched donor, and, even when one is found, the transplant more often than not doesn't work.
But at a meeting this week of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Suzanne Ilstad of the Allegheny University of the Health Sciences in Philadelphia unveiled a new advance in bone marrow transplantation that may solve both of those problems.
Ilstad has come up with a new technique for performing transplants. It has been tried in 25 patients -- and all of them had a successful transplant. That compares with a 30 percent success rate using the traditional transplant technique.
"We have been able to identify a way to engineer a bone marrow transplant to take out all the bad cells that cause graft-versus-host disease," said Ilstad.
Graft-versus-host disease is a phenomenon is which the new bone marrow recognizes the patient as foreign and attacks the skin, liver and intestinal track. It is often fatal.
Bone marrow, a spongy substance found inside bones, produces cells necessary to the immune system. Transplants work best when there is a family member who is a well-matched donor.
But with Ilstad's new technique, transplants were successful even when donors weren't well matched.
"We're very excited about the data, given the fact that we're taking people who otherwise would not be able to find a transplant because they don't have a matched donor," said Ilstad.
Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.