News Releases

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Begins $1.6 Million Study to Improve Quality of Life for Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Patients

More Than 30,000 People Are Alive Today, Thanks to Marrow Transplantation. How Normal is Life For These People? The Hutchinson Center Wants to Know.

SEATTLE -- The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is beginning a five-year study to look at the physical and psychological effects of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation. The study is funded by a $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The Hutchinson Center is one of 15 national centers selected out of 80 that applied for grant funding to conduct cancer survivor studies.

"Transplantation offers hope to so many people," says Karen Syrjala, Ph.D., a behavioral psychologist at the Hutchinson Center. "Our goals are to define long term issues that people struggle with, to define some of the positive growth from an experience like transplant and, most important, to give people more options to improve the quality of their lives."

According to Syrjala, when patients come for transplant the focus is often on survival, but increasingly patients are asking many questions about how normal their lives will be afterward. Will they feel like themselves? Will their brains work as well? Will they have the stamina to keep up with their kids? Will their sex lives be the same? Researchers know that most people get back to work and back to their family lives, but they are just starting to be able to answer questions about the real quality of those lives.

The study team, led by Syrjala, includes colleagues from the University of Washington, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, McGill University in Montreal, and a former transplant recipient who's the author of the Blood and Transplant Newsletter.

To identify factors that will enhance the long-term survival and quality of life for marrow and stem cell transplant recipients researchers will evaluate the functioning of adult survivors in the areas of work, stamina, cognition, family adaptations, emotional fluctuations, infertility, sexual function and, in women, menopausal symptoms.

Researchers also will:

  • identify areas that impact on long-term survivors to a greater extent than matched healthy adults;
  • define predictors of physical and psychological health in survivors
  • examine long-term neuropsychological and hormonal changes and their impacts
  • evaluate the long-term outcome of a clinical trial to enhance recovery

The study is designed to define and then pilot interventions to target long-term survivors most at risk. More than 200 marrow transplant survivors over the age of 18 will participate in the study. All participants have been followed by the Center since before their transplant.

The first group to be studied will involve 108 people who are more than five years post-transplant. This group will be followed through their 10-year survival point. The second group will involve 100 survivors who are now one or two years after transplant. They will be followed intensively through the next five years. A subset of the five-year survivor cohort will participate in a pilot study of interventions to reduce long-term impacts on marrow transplantation survivors.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 13, 1998
CONTACT:
Susan Edmonds (206) 667-2896
sedmonds@fhcrc.org