Researchers recently published a set of encouraging data resulting from the use of stem cell transplants in the treatment of forms of leukemia. Once a particular new technique is adopted in medical practice, further progress is often a matter of steady incremental improvement. Here that improvement is quite considerable over the past decade, a reflection of the pace of medical science in general:
Survival rates have increased significantly among patients who received blood stem cell transplants from both related and unrelated donors. [The] study authors attribute the increase to several factors, including advances in HLA tissue typing, better supportive care and earlier referral for transplantation. The study analyzed outcomes for more than 38,000 transplant patients with life-threatening blood cancers and other diseases over a 12-year period - capturing approximately 70 to 90 percent of all related and unrelated blood stem cell transplants performed in the U.S.
At 100 days post-transplant, the study shows survival significantly improved for patients with myeloid leukemias (AML) receiving related transplants (85 percent to 94 percent) and unrelated transplants (63 percent to 86 percent). At one-year post-transplant, patients who received an unrelated transplant showed an increased survival rate from 48 to 63 percent, while the survival rate for related transplant recipients did not improve. Similar results were seen for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). In addition to improved survival, the authors note a significant increase in the overall number of patients receiving transplants. Related and unrelated transplant as treatment for ALL, AML, MDS and Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas increased by 45 percent - from 2,520 to 3,668 patients annually. This is likely due to the use of reduced-intensity conditioning therapy and a greater availability of unrelated volunteer donors.