I was interested to learn how my myeloma specialist, Dr. Melissa Alsina, was working closely with officials in Puerto Rico to develop a comprehensive bone marrow/stem cell transplant program.
I wasn’t going to write about this, until I saw the LA Times picked-up the story yesterday from the Orlando Sentinel. Guess that makes it big news!
Tampa cancer center opens first bone marrow transplant clinic in Puerto Rico
By Linda Shrieves, Orlando Sentinel – LA Times Health
May 25, 2011
Puerto Rican adults who need bone marrow transplants have long had to leave the island just to be evaluated on whether they they are good candidates.
That will change this summer, however, when Moffitt Cancer Center of Tampa opens the island’s first blood and marrow transplant clinic.
Starting June 24, Dr. Melissa Alsina, head of Moffitt’s Multiple Myeloma Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, will travel to the island one Friday a month. Alsina will see patients who have been referred by a physician as candidates for a blood and marrow transplant.
“Currently, there is no allogeneic [donor] bone marrow transplant program for adult patients in Puerto Rico,” said Alsina, a native of Puerto Rico. “Therefore, any patient that needs an evaluation for a possible allogeneic stem cell transplant, or follow-up care, must leave the island. This clinic will provide patients the opportunity to have these services in Puerto Rico. I am very excited to be able to provide this service to patients on the island.”
Patients will still have to leave the island for the transplant, but the new clinic will save them money and time.
Bone marrow transplants and blood stem cell transplants are often used for patients with bone marrow diseases, such as leukemia, aplastic anemia and lymphoma. Other patients include cancer patients whose treatments have killed healthy blood cells.
Each year nearly 800 adults in Puerto Rico are diagnosed with blood-related cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. Of those, about 110 would be sent to the mainland for transplants.
Moffitt’s BMT program in Tampa performs more than 370 transplants a year. Since its inception in 1989, the program has performed almost 3,000 transplants with more than 1,200 survivors.
I’m excited for Dr. Alsina and our fellow multiple myeloma patients in Puerto Rico.
But on a selfish note, I did notice her first trip to the island is scheduled the weekend before I check-in for my stem cell transplant at Moffitt on Monday, June 27th. After viewing a few pictures like the ones above, I can see why she would want to spend some time back home. I hope she gets back in time to get me started!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat