Patient Care

Wilmot Cancer Institute celebrates 3,000th blood and marrow transplant

Aug. 27, 2016

The Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute recently performed its 3,000th transplant. The program, which opened in 1989, treats both adults and children for life-threatening conditions including blood cancers and sickle-cell anemia. It is one of the largest blood and marrow transplant programs in upstate New York.

“Reaching this number is an accomplishment for Wilmot and for our BMT program,” said Michael W. Becker, M.D., the program’s director. “The program has been a fundamental part of Wilmot Cancer Institute and this accomplishment illustrates that. The BMT program is committed to providing the expertise and top level of care for our patients. We’re very proud of the work they do.”

Wilmot’s BMT program performed nearly 160 transplants in 2015, and it has been accredited continuously by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) since 2000.

Michael Ring, 61, from Adams Center, N.Y., near Watertown, received the milestone stem cell transplant. He was diagnosed in 2015 with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), a cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and invades the blood. He received a transplant of hematopoietic stem cells — immature cells that can develop into all types of blood cells — from a perfectly matched donor in Poland.

“It has given me more opportunities to help and inspire others, make new friends, build stronger relationships and test existing ones,” he says. “I have no idea if my life will be measured in months or years. It really doesn’t matter because as long as I can, I plan to live life. There is always another adventure on the horizon.”

Ring’s transplant — a procedure known as a peripheral blood stem cell transplant — reflects the advances in technology and treatment over the last 25 years.

“Back when stem cell transplant first started, we did bone marrow transplants, where we harvested bone marrow and infused it into the recipient,” Becker said. “The majority of transplants in 2016 are mobilized stem cells, where we give patients a medication that moves stem cells out of the bone marrow and into peripheral blood. When the stem cells are in the peripheral blood we can remove them using a procedure called apheresis.”

Ring, whose transplant was April 5, is now continuing his recovery at home.

Wilmot’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program will celebrate this milestone and those who have received transplants over the years at its annual Survivors Picnic on Aug. 27.

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UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute is the Finger Lakes region’s leader for cancer care and research. As a component of Strong Memorial Hospital, Wilmot Cancer Institute provides specialty cancer care services at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a network of locations throughout the region. The Institute also includes a team of 100 scientists who investigate many aspects of cancer, with an emphasis on how best to provide precision cancer care. To learn more, visit wilmot.urmc.edu.