October 15, 2015
Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) as a treatment modality has proved to be successful in eradicating up to 80 percent of cancerous and genetic blood diseases, according to hematologists from Bengaluru.
The doctors from the Narayana Health City from Bengaluru also said that the otherwise expensive BMT treatment is done at very low costs in India compared to western countries, and also added that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Scheme (CMCHS) has also been helpful to people from financially-backward sections.
Speaking to the media in Coimbatore, Dr. Sharat Damodar, Head of the Department of Hematology, Oncology and BMT at the Narayana Health City (NHC), said that BMT is the only curative option for patients suffering from diseases including acute myeloid leukemia, Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia. “The patients first try chemotherapy or radiation but once the diseases relapse, BMT becomes their only option,” he added.
Explaining the process of BMT, Dr. Sharat said, “The idea of BMT is to either change the damaged bone marrow stem-cells with the donor cells by using the allogenic method, or to repair the damaged stem-cells of the patient by using the autologous modality, and then place it back,” he informed.
On the challenges faced by the doctors in BMT, Dr. Sharat said that it is difficult to find donors for such transplants because of the lack of awareness among the public. “We have only one exclusive bank in Chennai and only about 80,000 people have registered, which is only 0.01 percent when compared to the western countries. Even registered donors withdraw at the last moment out of fear,” he said.
According to the surgeon, the donors do not suffer any side effects and the donated stem-cells grow back within a few weeks. However, a donor can donate only twice because of the complications involved in the operation. “It is very rare for a person to match the stem-cells of two patients. It is possible only among relative donors,” Dr. Sharat informed.
Dr Sunil Bhat, Head of the Department of Paediatric Hematology, Oncology and BMT at NHC, said that even among relative donors, the chances of finding a healthy matching donor is hard and the patients get only haplo-identical or half-matched donors. “Both the processes are different and the half-matched stem cells take a little longer time to adapt to the body than the fully-matched stem cells,” he said.
However, the doctor admits that it becomes complicated if the diseases relapse after a BMT. “We try to do another BMT if there is a relapse. There are possibilities that the disease might relapse again, but it is a rarity,” he informed.
“Two patients from Tamil Nadu were treated in our institution with the help of the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Scheme (CMCHS). Both patients are fine now. While the scheme provided Rs.9.4 lakhs each to the patients, the rest of the money was raised through NGOs,” explained the surgeon.