In an interview for the Journal of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Norma Salgado Vilá, hematologist and oncologist specializing in bone marrow transplantation at the Hima Hospital in Caguas, explains how transplantation works, which has shown significant changes in the lives of patients
A stem cell transplant is a treatment to consolidate a bone marrow transplant and consists of giving high doses of chemotherapy and rescuing the patient from myelosuppressive side effects, explained the specialist.
Stem cells are in the bone marrow and are the precursors of hematopoietic cells such as white cells that help us fight infections, red cells that carry hemoglobin and platelets that help us clot, preventing a person from bleeding.
How do you work to avoid side effects?
The transplantation process can be divided into two parts: the first when you connect the stem cells which are going to be frozen, preserved and at the time of treatment the patient receives high doses of chemotherapies; then the cells are to be thawed, a body temperature is set to be infused into the patient.
Stem cells travel through the bloodstream to the bone marrow, and after about 13 days after the cells are infused, changes can be seen in the patient’s blood.
The average durability of a transplant is 2 to 5 years and when a second transplant is performed in this case, the progression time could be reduced to half the time that the first transplant lasted, explained the doctor.
Can this transplant be received several times?
Multiple myeloma is a disease that has been described in the literature as incurable, it can be controlled but we know that at some point it will progress. Therefore, the patient has the opportunity to receive the second transplant since approximately after the first transplant the disease has an average of 2 to 5 years to progress.
“If the patient has a favorable response to the transplant in less than three months, he could receive a second transplant,” said the doctor.
After receiving the transplant, scientifically patients have a life prognosis of more than 10 or 12 years. Transplantation provides better survival for patients.
Regarding these treatments for multiple myeloma, they began to be used in the 70’s and their evolution has been significant as well as the diseases that have received transplants.
There are several types of transplants, for example those patients who receive stem cells from other donors who are compatible, also those who receive stem cells from their parents, among others.
“There are new drugs in the transplant procedure providing better survival for patients,” said the specialist.
Myeloma in Puerto Rico
Myeloma disease is not common, according to the doctor, she has received between 50 and 60 cases for transplantation a year on the island. In addition, he stressed that there are many patients who after receiving the transplant go into complete remission.
People who apply to receive a transplant must have a good general condition, for example, the heart, lungs, kidneys that are in optimal condition is a candidate for transplantation.