A clinical study recently conducted by Northside Hospital’s Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program could give allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant patients a better chance for a cure. The study revealed new criteria for how physicians choose half-match (haploidentical) donors for patients who do not have a fully matched donor within their family.
The BMT Program at Northside Hospital is one of the largest programs in the Southeast and has seen among the best survival outcomes in the nation for bone marrow transplants, per data released by the National Marrow Donor Program and The Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. Northside is one of only two transplant programs in the country and the only adult program in Georgia to perform significantly better than expected for the past nine consecutive years (2009-17).
Seventy percent of patients nationally who need a hematopoietic cell transplant don’t have a fully matched donor, but haploidentical donors are readily available for nearly all such patients, according to Be The Match. At BMT programs across the United States, doctors have relied on making “an educated decision” when choosing which donor will be the best match to give the patient a successful outcome.
“There is currently no clear selection criteria to determine the optimal haploidentical donor,” said Dr. Scott Solomon, medical director of Northside’s BMT Matched Unrelated Donor Program and one of the authors of the new study. “That’s not good enough; if the donor choice really impacts how well the patient does, then we should be using better data to help select the donor rather than our own gut instinct.”
That was the genesis of the Northside Hospital study, which looked at 208 patients who received a transplant from a haploidentical donor at Northside and received post-transplant chemotherapy. In each case, the study examined what donor characteristics determined outcomes like survival.
Dr. Solomon presented his findings at the 59th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting & Exposition, Dec. 11, at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“The study demonstrated six variables to be important in predicting patient outcomes; a couple of these were known, but several variables were ones doctors are not currently looking for,” Dr. Solomon said. “We propose that you could use these six variables and create a scoring system that could help select the best donor, and if you did that, theoretically, you could achieve better outcomes for the patient."
Results of the Northside Hospital study have real-world implications for doctors and patients at BMT programs across the U.S., but further testing is needed by a multi-center study with a larger group of patients. However, Dr. Solomon said he’s encouraged by these initial results, which are already impacting many patients at Northside.
“As a doctor, we’re always asking: ‘Are there better things we can do to improve outcomes for our patients, better drugs and better treatments?’” Dr. Solomon said. “We know that in patients transplanted at our center, these factors are important in predicting outcomes; we are already changing our standard of care as an institution regarding how we select donors going forward.”
Funding for this clinical study was provided by the Northside Hospital Foundation’s Cancer Research Fund, which supports leading-edge research for cancer treatment, prevention, early detection and survivorship.
For more information about the Northside Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program or how to support future clinical research at Northside, visit northside.com/bmtprogram.
About Northside Hospital (www.northside.com)
The Northside Hospital health care system is one of Georgia’s leading health care providers with more than 150 locations across the state, including three acute care, state-of-the-art hospitals in Atlanta, Cherokee County and Forsyth County. Northside Hospital leads the U.S. in newborn deliveries and is among the state’s top providers of cancer care and surgical services. Northside has more than 2,800 physicians and 15,000 employees who serve 3 million patient visits annually across a full range of medical services.