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Haploidentical Bone Marrow Transplants being researched and conducted

Posted at 10:01 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 00:01:44-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Carlos Valencia captured the hearts of Tucson. In 2004, he lost his battle to leukemia. At the time, Valencia needed to find a full match for a bone marrow transplant. He was unsuccessful in finding a match. Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis, the division chief of pediatric oncology at the University of Arizona, was one of the doctors who treated Valencia.

He remembers him as, “quite the kid. He was tough, he fought hard,” says Katsanis.

Katsanis adds, “back then, we were not able to do haploidentical transplants. I remember the parents and I’m sure they would have been great donors for him at that time.”

Nearly 17 years later, haploidentical transplants are being done. That's a type of bone marrow transplant that uses healthy cells from a family member to replace unhealthy cells in the patient.

Katsanis says, “there’s been a lot of progress over the years obviously.”

Haploidentical transplants frequently use cells from a parent or sibling. “If a child has a parent, biological parent, that’s young enough and healthy to donate, we’ve been able to transplant pretty much every patient that has needed a transplant, at least in the past 5 years,” says Katsanis.

It’s a procedure that has been extremely beneficial in Southern Arizona.

Katsanis says, “About 50 percent of our patients are Hispanic, native Americans, African American, Asian. Minorities have a much lower chance of finding an unrelated match donor. It has helped our population here in Tucson. Not only minorities because a third of the haplo-transplants that we’ve done or 40 percent have been in non-minority populations.”

In pediatrics, 46 haploidentical transplants have been performed so far.

He says, “the goal is by 6 months after transplant for most patients to be off all therapies.”

It’s a step in the right direction for anyone battling leukemia. “The results have been excellent, actually comparable to having a matched sibling donor,” says Katsanis.