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Spectrum Health adult bone marrow transplant program offers treatment closer to home | Health

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Spectrum Health adult bone marrow transplant program offers treatment closer to home
Health, News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- West Michigan adults who need a blood or marrow transplant (BMT) to help them in their fight against cancer can now receive treatment closer to home.

The new Spectrum Health adult BMT program began performing transplants on February 25, 2013. The third BMT patient, Kevin VanZanten, 34, of Allendale, received his transplant on April 3. Spectrum Health anticipates performing up to 50 adult transplants in the next year.

VanZanten shared his thoughts about his upcoming procedure in a Google+ Hangout on Wednesday, April 3, at 10 a.m.

There are four adult BMT programs in Michigan. Spectrum Health offers the only adult BMT program in the western half of the state. While this is the first adult program in the area, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has been providing blood and marrow transplants since 1998.

The transplants are a treatment option for patients who have cancer, immune system disorders, metabolic disease and other life-threatening conditions. The adult program BMTs are performed by Dr. Stephanie F. Williams,  division chief of the adult blood and marrow transplant program for Spectrum Health Medical Group.

“Spectrum Health is initially focusing on doing transplants for patients with lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS),” said Dr. Williams. “A transplant offers many of these patients real hope to get back to their lives.”

So far, the BMT patients have received autologous transplants, meaning that their own blood stem cells are used. Unrelated, or allogeneic, transplants are expected to begin later this year.

A local program for adults has been welcomed by patients awaiting a transplant.

“The typical patient can spend up to a month in the hospital. They continue their recovery in a protected environment for another one to two months and then return frequently for check-ups,” explains Williams. “This is a tough experience to go through alone. Having to travel far and stay away so long after a transplant has been emotionally difficult, disruptive and expensive for our cancer patients and their families.”

Spectrum Health is working closely with Michigan Blood in several areas of transplant patient care.
According to Dr. Lee Ann Weitekamp, the vice president of quality and medical services for Michigan Blood, “Our staff and specialty laboratories provide tissue typing for patients and potential donors, special blood components to meet patients’ needs during the transplant process, blood stem cell collection through the apheresis process and the processing, labeling, freezing and storage of blood stem cells for future transplantation.”

Michigan Blood also operates Michigan’s first public cord bank, one of 20 in the nation, and is affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program’s (NMDP) Be the Match® Registry.

“Patients turn to the Registry for help in finding a donor match when they cannot do autologous transplant or one from a family member,” explained Dr. Weitekamp.

“West Michigan is extremely fortunate to have the Spectrum Health Adult BMT Program available in our community. Our team has worked closely with both the adult and pediatric BMT specialists to provide blood stem cell matches. We have observed first-hand the benefit to patients and their families of having this exceptional, high level of treatment available in our community, rather than having to travel longer distances.”

The multidisciplinary BMT team at Spectrum Health evaluates adult recipients for blood and marrow transplantation and provides care before, during and after transplant.

Dr. Williams started building the adult BMT program, which involves everyone from specially-trained infusion nurses to quality specialists, soon after joining Spectrum Health last September.

The pediatric BMT program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is under the direction of Aly Abdel-Mageed, MD, and Ulrich Duffner, MD. It is one of three in Michigan and is also the only program in the western half of the state.

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