A recent study on cancer survivorship by Fred Hutch scientists has been chosen as one of 10 Research Highlights of 2016 by the National Cancer Institute’s Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program. The study, led by Dr. Eric Chow, examined how serious health outcomes differ between two groups of cancer survivors: those who’d been treated with a transplant of blood-forming stem cells (like a bone marrow transplant), and those who had not.
NCI program staff chose the research highlights from all 2016 publications by program grantees nationwide based on these studies’ potential for impact on science or public health.
The study analyzed health data from nearly 1,800 cancer survivors who had had a transplant, a matched group of nearly 5,500 survivors who had not been treated with transplant, and more than 16,000 people in the general population. The team compared the rates of hospitalization, complications, subsequent cancers and deaths across these groups.
The researchers found that those who had had a transplant were more likely than other cancer survivors to experience certain serious health outcomes several years after their treatment, especially major infections and respiratory problems. Other outcomes were equally as likely in the two groups of survivors; for example, they experienced second cancers at the same rate. Overall, all cancer survivors were more likely than those in the general population to have experienced complications in a major organ system years after treatment.
The researchers recommended that health care providers be aware of the long-term risks associated with a history of this type of transplant so they can provide appropriate care to these patients.
“Direct comparisons of outcomes between transplant survivors and non-transplant survivors has been rare. Thus, our study helps fill in that gap,” said Chow, a cancer survivorship researcher at Fred Hutch, the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. “There are national and internationally reviewed guidelines that provide guidance to health care providers on things to watch for in transplant survivors. However, the reasons these survivors have more long-term infections and lung issues remain unclear and deserve more scrutiny.”
The NCI Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program awards more than 240 grants and cooperative agreements every year to support studies in human populations on the factors that affect caner occurrence and outcomes. It currently funds more than 330 active grants around the country, including 18 at Fred Hutch.
Susan Keown was a staff editor and writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center from 2014-2022 who has written about health and research topics for a variety of research institutions. Find her on Twitter @sejkeown.