Detecting lung disorder after stem cell transplant

The road to beating leukemia, lymphoma or other blood cancers often takes patients through a stem cell transplant. But in curing the cancer, transplants can cause a host of other issues, one of which is a lung disorder called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, or BOS.

BOS blocks the flow of air to the small airways in the lungs and is very difficult to treat once it becomes advanced. About 10% of patients who survive a stem cell transplant develop BOS.

Unfortunately, BOS is also difficult to diagnose, so by the time it’s identified doctors are not able to reverse it. The goal becomes to stop it from getting worse. Only 1 in 5 patients will survive five years after a BOS diagnosis.


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Who gets myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS?

preleukemia woman“What is that?”  This is the question many patients and family members will ask when they learn they or a loved one has received a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome.

Myelodysplastic  syndrome, or MDS as it is commonly referred to, is actually a group of conditions that affect the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. It is sometimes called the “bone marrow failure disorder” or preleukemia. About 30% of patients with MDS will develop a form of leukemia known as acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. Continue reading

Stem cells: Five years ago, this would have been impossible

A Q&A with Gary Smith, Ph.D., head of U-M’s human embryonic stem cell lab


Gary Smith, Ph.D., director of the U-M MStem Cell Lab, pulls a sample of stem cells, which are shared with researchers globally.

A recent New York Times article sheds light on the issue of discarding embryos that carry gene mutations. Families such as the one featured in the story who opt for in-vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and have embryos that they will not use due to genetic issues, are encouraged to donate them to the MStem Cell laboratory instead of discarding them.

Read more about the work the MStem Cell laboratory does below.

Five years ago, Michigan voters did something extraordinary for science. Today, Gary Smith, Ph.D.,and his team a the MStem Cell laboratory carry out the research that voters approved: coaxing human embryonic stem cells to grow and flourish so that medical researchers around the world can study diseases and normal cell function.

Smith sat down for an interview to explain what’s happening with this voter-approved work.

Q: So what exactly happens in this lab?

A: We derive and grow human embryonic stem cells, in a slow, meticulous process that takes Continue reading

Multiple myeloma treatment options are better than ever

Many new treatment options for multiple myeloma have been developed in the past several years.

Daniel Couriel, M.D.

Daniel Couriel, M.D.

mCancerPartner sat down recently with Daniel Couriel, MD, a professor of hematology and oncology to discuss multiple myeloma treatment options. Dr. Couriel treats patients with blood disorders such as multiple myeloma and he is an expert on graft-versus-host disease, a complication of stem cell transplantation. Dr. Couriel is participating in a round-table discussion at the upcoming Wine and Dine in the D, an annual fundraiser to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. It takes place Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.

mCancerPartner: Dr. Couriel, what is multiple myeloma?

Dr. Couriel: This is a kind of cancer that most often is found in the elderly. It affects a subset of blood cells called plasma cells, which normally live in bone marrow, the same place where all blood cells are generated. With multiple myeloma, too many plasma cells become malignant, and proliferate without restraint.  This prevents other kinds of blood cells – like red blood cells – from growing. As they get crowded out, the number of red and white blood cells go down, and this has serious side effects: we all need white blood cells to fight off infection, and red cells to transport oxygen.

Other serious problems occur when the malignant plasma cells Continue reading

A Story of Friendship

A Pair of Cancer Patients Help Each Other Heal

Sherron Tornow shared her cancer experience with an unexpected new friend: a fellow patient she met during the process of having a stem cell transplant who was key to her support system.

Patients Sherron Tornow and Achamma (Rani) Geevarghese took walks together, became friends and compared notes on how the other was feeling.

“Rani and I met when we were having our stem cells harvested,” Tornow says of patient Achamma (Rani) Geevarghese.

The 68 year-old Tornow was surprised when Geevarghese arrived at the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant service the day after she was admitted for her transplant.

Barb Rose, LMSW, a clinical social worker on the floor, says it can be difficult for healthy caregivers to understand issues facing patients during their three- to four-week inpatient stay. Patients can be faced with depression, isolation and risk of infection from having no immune system.

“Patients tell us nobody understands that fatigue or that feeling like you have to live in the bubble to prevent infection,” Rose says.

After both women had their transplants, Tornow suggested Geevarghese accompany her on a walk around the floor, something bone marrow transplant patients are encouraged to do daily. The two began walking together regularly.

“She was a former school teacher, I was a deli manager,” Tornow says.  “We talked about food a lot because she couldn’t eat much.”

Rose and other social workers work with patients individually on practical and mental health issues, as well as bringing patients together in groups, to share stories and experiences.

“We have a weekly support group for patients and caregivers that is open to everybody including post-transplant patients,” Rose says.

Visit WhatNext, an online resource developed in partnership with the American Cancer Society that provides a way for individuals to share their cancer journeys and insights so others can get a better idea of what to expect during their own journeys.