By Cindy Coyle
My husband Bill was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in January 2012. Needless to say it was a great shock to us and our three children, Billy, Sasha-Lee, and Jimmy.
Looking back, I realize how two unlikely events guided us through his treatment and recovery: a tattoo and a bulldog.
Outcomes are gradually improving for patients who suffer from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), one of the most serious complications of stem cell transplantation, and researchers are optimistic that further advances may be on the way.
Thousands of people who face life-threatening blood diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, require treatment with a stem cell transplantation (also referred to as a bone marrow transplantation). For many patients, the best treatment approach is an allogeneic transplant, in which healthy stem cells are collected from another person. The stem cell donor is selected based on how well his or her Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) markers match that of the patient.
Although a person’s HLA type is inherited from his or her parents, the likelihood of finding an HLA match with a family member is only 25 to 30 percent.
“Most people don’t have matched donors in the family, and if we’re going to provide stem cell transplants to cure these otherwise incurable diseases, we need to have a donor,” says Joseph Antin, MD, chief of the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Adult Stem Cell Transplantation Program.