Be the Match: Gamechanger for Transplant Patients


SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Each year, approximately 60 thousand people in the US will be diagnosed with leukemia. While there is technically no cure – the best shot of something close comes with a stem cell donation, but finding a donor match can be tricky. Transplant

Abbie Hecker PA-C, Physician Assistant at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center signed up years ago on “Be the Match” – a registry for blood stem cell donors.

Hecker says, “I had, actually, a cousin who had died of leukemia when I was younger.”

Hecker then found out that she ‘matched’ with a patient the same time she was to begin working in the bone and marrow transplant unit at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Her manager recalls …

“What a valuable learning experience for her to actually have the opportunity to go through the process herself. Says Christine Yenneco, PA-C, MPH, MCHS, Assoc. Director of Advanced Practice Providers on the Bone Marrow Transplant/Immunotherapy Service, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

“People don’t really realize it can be as simple as almost a blood donation.” Says Hecker.

That’s because, in most cases, painful bone marrow harvesting can instead be replaced by peripheral blood donation as a way to extract stem cells.

Hecker says, “I got hooked up to the machine, which just meant getting an IV placed in one arm, and I had, kind of, a needle in the other arm so they could take my blood out, send it through the machine to collect stem cells, and then send it back.”

And eventually into the patient’s bloodstream.

Yennaco says, “We are giving the patient a new immune system with the hopes that if there’s any residual cancer cells, the new immune system would get rid of them.”

After a year, Hecker will have the opportunity to connect with the patient she helped. But for now, she knows the experience is about …

Hecker says, “Really giving somebody the chance at brand new life without cancer.”

Blood stem cell donation has the potential to treat and even cure over 75 different diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. The preferred age group for donors is between 18 to 35 years old. That’s due to the higher success rate among younger donors. If you would like more information, go to

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Joe Alexander-Short, Videographer.



REPORT #3131

BACKGROUND:  Leukemia is cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children, while other forms occur mostly in adults. Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells which are potent infection fighters. White blood cells normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. However, in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly. Treatment for leukemia can be complex depending on the type of leukemia and other factors. But there are strategies and resources that can help make treatment successful.


STEM CELL AND BONE MARROW DONATION: People usually volunteer to donate stem cells for a transplant either because they have a loved one or friend who needs a match or because they want to help people. Some people give their stem cells so they can get them back later if they need an autologous transplant. It’s highly important to protect the health of potential donors, as well as the health of bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients. Therefore, medical guidelines have been put into place. There are many factors that can affect a person’s eligibility to register as a donor. Potential donors are asked questions to make sure they are healthy enough to donate and don’t pose a risk of infection to the recipient. There is a simple blood test that can be done to learn the potential donor’s HLA type. This test is a one-time, tax-deductible fee of about $75 to $100. People who join a volunteer donor registry will most likely have their tissue type kept on file until they reach age 60.


PROMISING NEW DRUG TREATMENT: A groundbreaking clinical trial of an experimental targeted therapy called revumenib, which is in a new class called menin inhibitors, was developed based on research conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). More than half of patients with certain molecular changes in their cancer responded to the drug. These changes are either an MLL rearrangement (also called a KMT2A rearrangement) or a mutation in the gene NPM1. “People with these types of alterations tend to have very aggressive disease,” says hematologic oncologist Eytan Stein, MD, Chief of the Leukemia Service and Director of MSK’s Program for Drug Development in Leukemia. “What we’ve seen in this study is very promising, especially for this patient population.” It was reported that 53 percent of patients responded to revumenib, and 30 percent had a complete response or a complete response with partial hematologic recovery, which means that no cancer was detectable in their blood. Of the patients who achieved remission, more than 78 percent were negative for measurable residual disease.


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Heather Platisha

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