About Our Blood Cancer, Bone Marrow Transplant and Cell Immunotherapy Program
Under the direction of David Avigan, MD, a cancer vaccine pioneer, our blood cancer program offers the complete range of therapies, including:
- Comprehensive chemotherapy strategies
- Autologous stem cell and bone marrow transplants
- Allogeneic stem cell and bone marrow transplants from related and matched unrelated donors and cord units
- Non-myeloablative allogeneic "mini" transplants, which use a less aggressive combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy before stem cell transplant
- Cancer immunotherapies that harnesses your own immune system to fight cancer
- Radioimmunotherapy which uses an antibody tagged with radiation to target cancer cells
- BIDMC is a certified site of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), and organization that provides access to donors from around the world through a registry of more than 5 million possible donors.
- In addition, in recognition of our extensive services and achievements, we are accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), a further mark of clinical excellence in bone marrow transplantation.
- The Cancer Center at BIDMC has been certified for meeting the highest standards of quality for cancer care by the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Quality Oncology Practice Initiative.
- Our comfortable outpatient treatment area and 24-bed inpatient unit are solely dedicated to caring for blood cancers and bone marrow transplantation. You can expect your doctors to spend an exceptional amount of one-on-one time with you and your family throughout your course of treatment. In fact, one of our program strengths is true continuity of care, so you can see the same physician from treatment to follow-up, for comfort, peace of mind, and easy accessibility to your doctor of choice.
- We discuss patient cases in weekly, multidisciplinary team conferences that include the tumor board (for patients with biopsy results), the bone marrow transplant conference (for patients on the transplant list now or in the near future), and the inpatient conference (for patients who are hospitalized). In these conferences, our team discusses your particular diagnosis and the best treatment options for you. This approach enhances diagnostic accuracy, gives you the broadest range of treatment alternatives and customizes the care you receive.
- Our nurses also have extensive experience, and have undergone intensive training in caring for transplant patients. They have completed the Oncology Nursing Society chemotherapy and biotherapy training program, and many have gone on to become oncology-certified nurses. Additionally, many nurses are members of both the national and Boston chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society.
BIDMC caregivers are focused on developing and providing novel approaches to care that are less toxic and improve efficacy while reducing treatment-related complications. These approaches include standard treatment protocols (guidelines) and clinical trials — research studies that are designed to find better treatments for cancer patients based on the most updated information from around the country.
In collaboration with investigators at other Harvard teaching hospitals, BIDMC has established a nationally recognized program for cancer vaccines. Potent antigen-presenting cells, known as dendritic cells, are fused to patient tumor cells, and then reintroduced into the patient as a vaccine in an effort to stimulate the development of tumor-reactive immune cells. The vaccine may trigger the immune system to view the tumor cells as foreign, and the body generates a personalized immune response to target and destroy the particular cancer. Clinical trials studying vaccines are available for certain patients with multiple myeloma, kidney cancer, beast cancer, melanoma and ovarian cancer.
Combining a source of radiation, such as a radioisotope, with a component of the immune system, such as an antibody, radioimmunotherapy delivers targeted radiation to patients with certain types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Some patients may qualify for radioimmunotherapy offered as part of a clinical trial; others may benefit from standard treatment guidelines available for this type of therapy.
BIDMC has participated in developing strategies to reduce the toxicity of donor transplants. These reduced-intensity allogeneic transplants — "mini-transplants" — harness the anti-tumor effects of the donor's immune system with lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation compared to traditional bone marrow transplantation. As a result, treatment and recovery are easier, making the procedure more feasible for some patients who, because of age or medical complications, would otherwise not be candidates. Some patients may qualify for clinical trials studying mini-transplants, while others may be better suited for standard treatment guidelines.
Our robust clinical trials program includes leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphoma and bone marrow transplant treatment studies.
Hematologic Malignancies/Bone Marrow Transplant
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a founding member of Harvard's National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, the largest cancer research consortium in the country. This affiliation assures patients of access to a broad array of treatment options through clinical trials. We are also affiliated with the:
- Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG)
- Clinical Trials Network (CTN)
- National Cancer Institute (NCI)