Bone marrow transplant reunion draws hundreds to Fred Hutch

BMT survivors and donors huddle, hug amid weekend celebration
2015 Fred Hutch BMT Survivor Reunion
The 2015 Fred Hutch BMT Survivor Reunion kicked off Friday with a welcome reception in Fred Hutch's Mundie Courtyard. Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Several hundred people have gathered this weekend in Seattle for the party of many lifetimes – the seventh Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Reunion at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Attending are 276 transplant survivors, as well as their donors, families and caregivers. 

The survivors were transplanted between five and 42 years ago. They’ve come to connect with each other and, in some cases, with their donors. 

On Saturday night, during the culminating celebration at the Museum of History and Industry, one BMT survivor will, for the first time, meet the donor whose gift saved her life.

Compared to the previous BMT Survivor Reunion, held in 2011, about 200 additional people are attending this year — a happy indication, organizers say, of a growing community of BMT survivors. 

The event opened Friday with a welcome reception in Fred Hutch’s Mundie Courtyard.

"This weekend is to honor all of you," Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Fred Hutch deputy director and executive vice president, told the hundreds of people attending the opening reception.

On Saturday, Appelbaum delivered a keynote address detailing the 40 years of progress in BMT research and care.

Clinical use of bone marrow transplantation — among the greatest success stories in cancer treatment— was pioneered by Fred Hutch's Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who won the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his groundbreaking work.

BMT advances have boosted survival rates from nearly zero to more than 85 percent for some blood cancers.

To date, more than 1 million people have received transplants worldwide.

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