Bone Marrow Transplant
Massey is a leader in bone marrow transplants
VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) program has been continuously operating since 1988. Now the largest comprehensive BMT provider in Virginia, the program allows patients to receive any available transplant source and option without being referred elsewhere. Good patient outcomes have helped place Massey’s BMT program among the largest and fastest-growing programs in the nation.
Massey has been a National Marrow Donor Program transplant center offering related, unrelated and umbilical cord blood transplants for more than a decade. It is also an Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Blue Distinction Center — one of just 70 nationwide — in recognition of the program’s depth of experience and track record.
The program continues to achieve lower-than-expected mortality overall, in both autologous and allogeneic transplant patients. (An autologous transplant means the patient’s own blood and stem cells are used for therapy, where an allogeneic transplant uses donor cells.) A recently established BMT Long-Term Follow-up Clinic helps continue to preserve the health and well-being of patients up to and beyond 10 years post transplant, and to assist in the unique medical needs of post-transplant patients.
Our inpatient treatment unit and outpatient clinic are specifically designed for the treatment needs of transplant patients and their families, and are conveniently located in downtown Richmond on the VCU Medical Center campus with free valet parking.
Multidisciplinary-coordinated, research-backed care
Our BMT program provides seamless coordination throughout the arc of a patient’s needed therapy.
“We like to get involved early with referring physicians to help better understand the patients and make sure we have the best prognostic information at the time of diagnosis so we can better predict how certain diseases will behave in the patients,” said John M. McCarty, M.D., medical director of the BMT Program.
“The ultimate goal,” Dr. McCarty added, “is to make seamless the complex, comprehensive course of treatment by developing an arc of therapy, whereby BMT specialists, referring physicians and doctors in related disciplines at Massey and the VCU Medical Center are involved in every step of the process and not just passing patients along.”
Our care is also bolstered and enhanced by cutting-edge research and innovative clinical trials, bringing promising new treatments, advanced technologies, improved standards of care, expanded curative options and safer transplants to our patients.
Note to our readers: For a more detailed discussion of the process and benefits, please read about bone marrow transplantation under “Treatment modalities” on Massey’s Web site.
Candidates for transplants often have various forms of blood cancers, such as leukemias, as well as sickle cell anemia and other hematologic malignancies and immune disorders. In particular, candidates are patients who have relapsed or recurrent cancer, patients whose cancer did not fully respond to standard-dose therapy and patients with high risk for relapse with standard-dose therapy.
Bone marrow/peripheral blood stem cell transplant is a treatment option for a wide variety of diseases, including:
- Chronic and acute leukemias
- Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
Treatment decisions are based on the type and status of the disease, tumor markers and genetic changes that predict chance of cure and chance of recurrence with standard-dose therapy.
Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones where new blood cells are produced. A bone marrow transplant involves removing some marrow from the donor’s hip bone and transferring it to the patient intravenously.
In many cases the stem cells may also be obtained by processing the donor’s venous blood. “We need to update the old public perception that bone marrow is only obtained through a long needle,” said Dr. McCarty. “We are actually working with blood stem cells that can come through a blood donation.”
Bone marrow transplants:
- Use high-dose chemotherapy to overcome resistance that some tumors have developed during the course of treatment with standard dose therapy
- Replace stem cells, which may be "programmed" to create cancerous cells, with cancer-free stem cells from a healthy matched donor
- Implant the donor's immune system into the recipient as a way of recognizing and eradicating cancer cells
Massey offers several types of transplants. The two main methods include:
- Autologous stem cell transplantation, in which the patient's own stem cells are used to cure or prolong survival in certain types of cancers
- Allogeneic stem cell transplantation, in which donor stem cells replace the patient's stem cells and rebuild a healthier immune system; Massey can perform these transplants from related donors and unrelated donors
“Because of research, there’s been a tremendous growth in the treatment options available to patients,” said Harold Chung, M.D., one of the team’s four physician-researchers. “We are able to save more lives today than we were 20 years ago as a result.”
Vast improvements in the transplant process over the past five years have led to safer transplants. Also, high-dose therapies may now be given to patients who previously may have been ineligible due to age and other diseases.
“Immune therapeutics is an exciting area of growth within our program,” added Dr. McCarty. “We can actually give patients a better immune system that promotes their long-term health.”
Massey has participated in new clinical trials and written new protocols for disease states that previously could not be treated effectively.
“The success of high-dose therapy has improved throughout the transplant community as a result of national clinical studies and cooperation among the worldwide academic community,” Dr. Chung said. “This cooperation and information sharing allows us to continue to advance the field.”
The newest addition to Massey’s Bone Marrow Transplant Program is the Cellular Therapeutics Lab. The new facility allows physicians to perform procedures more specifically tailored to individual cancer patients’ needs as opposed to broadly supporting intensive, high-dose chemotherapy treatments used in bone marrow transplantation.
Cellular therapeutics is where specific cellular elements of the patient’s or donor’s immune system are isolated or adapted to work as a focused therapy for cancer or immune-mediated disorders, providing new hope for patients with a myriad of diseases.
“This laboratory will allow us to take our existing adult stem cells from sources such as blood, bone marrow and umbilical cord blood and use them to their maximum potential, both in transplantation cancer therapy and immune therapy,” said Dr. McCarty.
The new space will allow transplant physicians to speed up their stem cell collection processes, making it safer and more efficient, and will enable them to work with twice as many cell samples at one time than in their previous space, a necessity given the growth of the transplantation program.
If you have a question about Massey’s Bone Marrow Transplant Program, phone (804) 828-4360 or Ask Massey.
For more information on becoming a registered bone marrow donor, visit www.marrow.org.
The mailing address for the Bone Marrow Transplant Program is:
North Hospital, 10th Floor
1300 East Marshall Street
Richmond, Virginia 23298‑0157
Save a life... join the marrow registry
It’s easy to donate bone marrow through a procedure that causes little more than slight bruising and discomfort for the donor, but can be life-saving for the recipient.
“Testing is as simple as swabbing to get a DNA sample,” BMT Director John McCarty said. “If you match a family member or friend who needs a bone marrow transplant, you can donate stem cells on a Friday and be back to work by Monday or Tuesday.”
Dr. McCarty said there is no long-term risk to the bone marrow donor, and that it is not like giving a kidney or other organ. The body recreates the lost marrow stem cells.
Potential donors who don’t have a family member or friend in need of a bone marrow transplant can still perform a life-giving act by joining the National Bone Marrow Donor registry. All that registration requires is to get a cheek swab.
“The sample is saved and kept until you are needed,” McCarty said.
Take the first step to become a bone marrow donor. Join the Be the Match Registry®.