Archive for September 19th, 2008

Transplant Information

Hello Everyone!

What a day. Let me first start off by telling you that I have a ton of information to share regarding my upcoming transplants. This is no small thing and I encourage you to ask me questions and post them in your comments. Be sure to include your email address so I can respond. Here we go. Today I met one of my three transplant doctors at Medical College of Virginia (MCV) who will decide what kind of transplant I will be having (autologous or allogenic). There has been great debate from multiple transplant oncologists as to which treatment would be more successful. An allogenic transplant means that I would be receiving bone marrow from an unrelated donor (because I am an only child). The mortality rate for this procedure is high for most patients, but in my case it is even more so coming from an unrelated donor. The positive effect of having donor bone marrow is that this new immune system recognizes the cancer cells as being bad cells and kills them. Unfortunately, it does not recognize certain vital organs as good organs either and can attack those. Rejection of this new immune system is a risk and so is Graft Versus Host disease (GVH).

The best transplant center in the United States that has the most up to date cancer transplant treatments is called the Hutchinson Center located in Seattle. Their most recent research shows that a person with my type of Cancer (refractory or progressive Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) may not truly benefit from an allogenic transplant. So the question is this: do I undergo an allogenic transplant with a great mortality risk and not so great results or do I undergo an autologous transplant (using my own stem cells) and risk a relapse?

This has been an ongoing question without a clear answer until today. According to my new group of doctors, I will be undergoing a tandem or double autologous transplant. I have to do this transplant procedure twice. Are you kidding me? Why in the world would I do this twice? Well, the answer is simple: to save my life. I guess when you put it that way there is no room to argue or compromise.

MCV is participating in a clinical trial to see if patients with my type of Cancer have a greater rate of success from a double auto transplant versus a single one. Recent data has shown this to be true, but more research needs to be done and that is where I will be participating in that research. The good news is that an autologous transplant has a very low mortality rate, but the bad news is the my insurance company may not cover both procedures. This is not the normal standard of care and my insurance company may deem it experimental (which means not covered). MCV will be contacting my insurance to do everything they can to make this happen. It’s really exciting to be part of some Cancer research that may benefit millions of people in the future. A interesting way of “giving back.”

What will happen in the next week is that I will have one more round of ICE chemo. Once my blood counts are back up, I will begin harvesting my stem cells. The high dose chemo won’t begin until mid November, but that may change. I do plan on posting my transplant experience along with a timeline as it unfolds. I know that this is a lot of information to digest and if anyone is interested in more detailed info, please let me know. I am completely exhausted and physically fatigued from today’s events, but once I understand everything that is going to happen, then I will be ready to rock!