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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Hemotopoietic stem cell treatment available in region

Photo of Drs. Taylor and Richman
UC Davis hematologists Douglas Taylor and Carol Richman direct the institution's pediatric and adult Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant programs.

Once known as a bone marrow transplant program, UC Davis Health System's Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Program has evolved into a comprehensive research and clinical program offering the latest treatment options to children and adults with blood malignancies and other cancers.

It performed the capital region's first adult bone marrow transplant in 1993. Since then, the program has expanded to include children, and is the largest and most experienced of its kind in inland Northern California. Last year, about 40 adult hematopoietic stem cell transplants were performed, while 10 transplant recipients were children.

National designations

Part of UC Davis Cancer Center, one of 61 such centers in the United States to be recognized by the National Cancer Institute, the program is the only one in the region to be designated a National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Transplant Center. This designation gives UC Davis patients access to 5.5 million potential volunteer donors and 40,000 units of donated cord blood.

“We do a significant number of allogeneic transplants, utilizing donors from all over the world,” says Carol Richman, professor of internal medicine, hematology and oncology, and director of the UC Davis program. “If a patient doesn't have a donor, we can find them one.”

Clincial trials available

Thanks to the NCI designation, UC Davis patients have access to national clinical trials and treatment options that might not otherwise be available.

The Cancer Center also offers top-ranked nursing care. “Nursing is one of the most important aspects of transplant care, and we have a nationally recognized nursing staff,” Richman says. "Its pediatric program is part of the Pediatric Blood Marrow Transplant Consortium and the Children's Oncology Group."

In addition to the national donor program membership, the center has been growing steadily because of the availability of cord blood as a source of stem cells, better medication and supportive care that have made more patients suitable candidates for transplant therapy, and the increasing use of hematopoietic stem cells to treat diseases other than malignancy.

"The safety of transplants has been improving with time and they can now be offered for a wider range of conditions and diseases,” explains Douglas Taylor, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the pediatric portion of the program."

Expanded treatments

The UC Davis program currently treats malignancies of the blood as well as other cancers, such as pediatric brain tumors, whose bone marrow must be rescued after high-dose chemotherapy. Among the diseases researchers are working on treating with hematopoietic stem cell transplants are sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and various autoimmune disorders.

Last year, the program established its own facilities for harvesting and processing donated cells, cutting costs and eliminating the need for the use of a commercial facility. This has opened up new research possibilities.

“All of the hematopoietic stem cells are processed and stored here at the university, making them available for research and allowing more rapid translation of basic research to patient care,” Taylor says.

Richman believes sceintists are just beginning to realize the full potential of stem cells to treat human disease.

"We're going to have new scientists at UC Davis developing new ways that we can use stem cells for regeneration," she predicts. And, she adds: "We'll be involved in helping to translate that work into clinical practice."

Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Team

Carol M. Richman, M.D.

Douglas Taylor, M.D.

Joseph M. Tuscano, M.D. Theodore Zwerdling, M.D.
Lisa Law, M.D. Theodore Wun, M.D.
Kristine Ahlbert, R.N. Dianne Padovan, R.N.
Kay Wells, R.N.