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UNM Stem Cell Transplant Program Celebrates First Year

UNM Stem Cell Transplant Program Celebrates First Year

UNM Cancer Center Stem Cell Transplant program began treating New Mexicans with blood disorders more than one year ago.

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center began helping New Mexicans with blood disorders a little more than one year ago. Since then, more than 30 New Mexicans have received treatment.

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center program is the state’s only bone marrow transplant program. The team’s nurse manager, Maria Limanovich, says the team follows each person from the beginning of bone marrow transplant treatment through completion. The program is growing and is in the process of hiring two more doctors and an advanced practice provider, according to Program Director Matthew Fero, MD.

The UNM Bone Marrow Transplant program offers treatment choices for people with lymphoma and myeloma and will expand to help people with other blood disorders. Almost 1,000 New Mexicans receive a blood cancer diagnosis each year, according to American Cancer Society estimates.

Fero started the program after moving to New Mexico from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Wash. He and his team currently perform autologous bone marrow transplants, which are standard treatments for lymphoma and myeloma. This treatment works very well against aggressive lymphomas.

“Autologous bone marrow transplantation is the process of taking bone marrow stem cells out of a patient and then infusing them back in after the patient receives high dose therapy,” said Fero in a press release. “This allows us to use treatments that would otherwise harm the bone marrow.”

Once stem cells are safely stored out of the bloodstream, doctors use high-dose chemotherapy to eradicate the remaining cancer. When chemotherapy is out of their system, the patients’ stem cells are reinfused. The reinfusion process is similar to a blood transfusion. Once reinfused, stem cells find their way back to bone marrow where they begin to grow and make new blood cells.

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Ashley Kurtz is a freelance theater critic.

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