Every year, the European School of Hematology (ESH) - European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) training course provides a comprehensive training in all aspects of autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation and comprises a mixture of formal lectures, case presentations by attendees and faculty, and networking sessions.
What is an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant?
An autologous stem cell transplant is one in which the patient receives stem cells from his own blood. This type of stem cell treatment is preferred in certain cases, and is usually used in the treatment of solid tumors, including lymphoma, sarcoma, brain tumors and neuroblastoma. It is also generally used in cases when surgery is performed on the blood vessels, urinary tract and heart.
One advantage of this stem cell treatment procedure is that in an autologous stem cell transplant, the body recognizes the cells and therefore does not reject or attack them, an occurrence known as Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD)
In addition, autologous transplants have the added advantage of avoiding the sometimes difficult process of finding a donor for stem cell treatment.
What is an Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant?
An allogeneic stem cell transplant is a procedure in which a patient receives stem cells from a donor. Allogeneic transplants are preferred in certain cases, such as in the treatment of leukemia.
The donor used in an allogeneic stem cell transplant can be the patient's identical twin, sibling, family member or an unrelated donor.
One limitation of allogeneic stem cell treatment is that this procedure carries the risk of developing GVHD, whereby the patient's body rejects the donor stem cells. Human leukocyte antigens (HLA) matching can help minimize this risk; in this procedure, the HLA of the patient and donor are matched as closely as possible.
HLA are found on the surface of all types of cells in the body and help to identify an object that is foreign to the body, in which case the immune system is alerted in order to fight the perceived threat. In addition, allogeneic stem cell transplant require the use of strong medication in order to prevent this risk of GVHD.
The 17th ESH - EBMT Training Course on Haemopoietic Stem Cell transplantation was held this year in Sicily, Italy during April 25-28.
Dr. El Missiry from Cure2children Foundation during this event made a presentation on “Worthiness of bone marrow transplantation as a treatment option for thalassemia patients in developing countries”. His presentation stressed the significance of bone marrow transplantation (BMT) for the cure of thalassemia. BMT as a way of curing children with thalassemia has been successfully performed for almost 30 years in a total of more than 3,000 patients worldwide.
What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?
A blood and marrow stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces a person's faulty stem cells with healthy ones.
Stem cells are found in bone marrow, a spongy tissue inside the bones. Stem cells develop into the three types of blood cells that the body needs:
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body
- White blood cells, which fight infections
- Platelets (PLATE-lets), which help the blood clot
Small numbers of stem cells also are found in the blood and in the umbilical cord (the cord that connects a fetus to its mother's placenta). Another type of stem cell, called an embryonic (em-bre-ON-ik) stem cell, can develop into any type of cell in the body. These cells aren't found in bone marrow.
BMT plays a great role in improving the quality of life for both patients and their families through decreasing medical, psychological and financial burdens of conventional continuous treatment.
He also highlighted Cure2Children’s experience in combating Thalassemia through collaboration with local BMT centers in affected countries, training personnel and sustained follow up of the transplanted patients. Cure2Children has demonstrated that BMT is a safe and feasible life-saving treatment even without sophisticated equipment and highly trained personnel. We believe that the only solution to truly sustainable healthcare is quality, cost-effective and international competitiveness.
C2C has successfully initiated a BMT support program in Pakistan and India. And over 100 BMTs have been performed with results comparable to more affluent countries but at a fraction of the cost.
Dr.Missiry’s presentation was well received and appreciated by the participants. His presentation was also very successful in driving the attention to the significance of BMT for the cure of thalassemia in developing countries rather than life long transfusions and chelation.
Click here to read the full presentation made by Dr. El Missiry