Refining transplantation: ‘This kind of progress in the field of cancer is unheard of’

2011 Annual Report

Refining transplantation: ‘This kind of progress in the field of cancer is unheard of’

Dr. George McDonald

Dr. George McDonald

“How is medical progress made? With transplantation, we are talking about a series of little steps, one on top of another on top of another.”

That’s how Dr. George McDonald characterizes his recent study that showed how a decade of steady refinements by Hutchinson Center researchers to bone marrow and stem cell transplantation led to unparalleled improvements in blood cancer survival rates.

Our researchers pioneered transplantation more than 40 years ago—and they remain the world’s leaders in the field. McDonald’s study underscores that fact. Comparing survival rates of patients treated by Center physicians in the mid-1990s to those in the mid-2000s, he and his colleagues reported a 60 percent drop in the risk of death within 200 days of transplant and a 41 percent reduction at any time after transplant.

“This kind of progress in the field of cancer, in cancer studies, is unheard of,” McDonald said.

The study also revealed the one-year survival rate jumped from 55 percent to 70 percent. They also found significant declines after transplantation in the risks of severe graft-vs.-host disease, infections, and complications from damage to the lungs, kidneys and liver.

As the world approaches 1 million transplants, we celebrate these remarkable advances that have improved survivorship for people with life-altering blood cancers.