Blood and Marrow Transplant Program Celebrates Milestone

When the collaborative team consisting of Blood and Marrow Transplant Center of Kansas maintained and ran by CCK, Ascension Via Chrisi and the American Red Cross performed its first bone marrow transplant in July 1989, the treatment was still relatively new. But three decades later, BMT has long been the standard of care for many cancers as the technology, knowledge and outcomes continue to improve.  In 1989, our very own Dr. Johnson joined the Cancer Center of Kansas (CCK) team and both initiated and began to maintain the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program here at our Wichita location until retirement in 2013 when Dr. Bassam Mattar then took over as director.  This program became the first community bone marrow transplant program accredited by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) to participate in national clinical trials.  By August of 1999, the BMT Program was the 11th in the nation to receive the highly sought after accreditation by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) and still remains today, accredited with the same.

According to statistics, by the end of this year nearly 1,000 patients will have undergone a bone marrow transplant at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.   “These are patients with aggressive blood cancers such as lymphomas, leukemia and myelomas and some solid tumor cancers who most likely would not survive long term without this intervention,” says Patty Bluml, an advanced practice nurse who helps coordinate the care offered by the partnership of the three institutions.

“Identifying a donor, undergoing high-dose chemotherapy and/or total body irradiation, being infused with healthy blood stem cells and waiting for them to develop and grow takes at least four to eight weeks,” says Bluml, noting that the nearest BMT centers are as far as Kansas City and Oklahoma City. “So having a close-to-home program is crucial to the patients we serve from throughout Kansas.”

As the BMT’s director, Bassam Mattar, MD leads a team that includes fellow Cancer Center of Kansas oncologists Phu Truong, MD, Quoc Truong, MD, Seth Page, MD, and Dennis Moore Jr., MD. For them, it’s a privilege to be a part of a program that has benefited so many Kansas families.

CCK patient in attendance of the event, Kim Fairbank, said “It had been 2 1/2 years since my transplant, and since I had walked the hallways of the 7th floor.  It was a very emotional experience for me – a great opportunity to see my transplant doctor, Dr. Mattar, and the staff, and the nurses (my angels), who cared for me and supported me through my successful stem cell transplant.”  She ended with exclaiming the joyful celebration that this event was and said, “They will always hold a very special place in my heart!”

“Over the years, the way bone marrow transplantation is being done has changed, but our commitment to those we serve has not,” says Dr. Mattar. “As new and exciting treatments continue to evolve, we will remain on the forefront so that Kansas patients can access the care they need close to home.”  The advancements that take place over the years in oncology brings much excitement and hope for our patients, physicians and community alike.