St. Mary’s joins in effort to offer bone marrow transplants

St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center has announced a partnership to bring a bone marrow transplant program to Western Colorado next year.

St. Mary’s will work with the University of Colorado Hospital and University of Colorado Cancer Center to offer bone marrow transplants at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

A bone marrow transplant program manager has been hired, and efforts are under way to recruit a transplant physician. It’s expected the first transplant will be conducted by the middle of 2015. The program also will offer followup care to patients who’ve received transplants elsewhere.

Transplants offer a way to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. The treatment has proven effective in battling such blood cancers as leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and multiple myeloma. St. Mary’s will offer a transplant program for adults in which healthy bone marrow cells will come from the patients themselves.

Marty Jacobson, director of the Saccomanno Research Institute at St. Mary’s, said the transplant program will offer access and convenience that will save lives. Patients undergoing bone marrow transplants at the University of Colorado Hospital or elsewhere could be away from home for one to two months.

“We know that many patients in our area need bone marrow transplants but aren’t getting the potentially life-saving procedure simply because it hasn’t been convenient,” Jacobson said. “I’m convinced that bringing BMT capabilities to the Western Slope will save lives each year.”

Dr. Clay Smith, director of the blood cancer and BMT program at the CU Cancer Center, said he’s also excited about the collaboration on a bone marrow transplant program and expects to offer other types of specialty cancer care in Western Colorado.

“We’re excited and proud to partner with St. Mary’s to bring a new level of cancer care to patients near Grand Junction,” Smith said. “We want patients throughout our region to have access to the highest level of care and the best outcomes.”

The collaboration will foster coordinated patient care and services; shared clinical expertise with St. Mary’ staff, the development of treatment procedures, research and monitoring of outcomes; and accreditation as a joint program through the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy.