GREENVILLE, S.C. – The Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute marked its 1000th stem cell transplant this month, a major milestone of providing 25 years of innovative transplant therapies in the Upstate.
Gwen King was the 1000th patient to benefit from a transplant within GHS’ Blood and Marrow Transplant program. King was diagnosed in 2011 with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a blood disorder caused by poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells. After unsuccessful attempts to treat the disease with chemotherapy, King was referred to the GHS Cancer Institute for a stem cell transplant to prevent the disease from progressing into leukemia.
While King is new to stem cell therapies, she has seen firsthand the impact of innovation on blood disorder and cancer treatments. Her mother passed away from lymphoma in 1999, when patients had few options for treatment besides chemotherapy.
“I think it’s a good omen to be the 1000th patient,” said King, an ebullient 70-year-old retired hair dresser. “It’s unbelievable what this team now knows and can do. We didn’t have this many options in 1999. I’m feeling very confident about this treatment.”
GHS has been a regional leader in bone marrow and stem cell transplants since 1992, when the first blood and marrow transplant in the Upstate was performed by GHS oncologists. The GHS Cancer Institute has since received internationally-recognized accreditation by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). The GHS Cancer Institute is one of only two programs in the state and the only program in the Upstate to earn FACT accreditation for both allogeneic and autologous transplantation.
The impact of GHS’ McCrary Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit, which significantly expanded last year, stretches far beyond the Upstate. Through a partnership with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), the GHS Cancer Institute is also a designated NMDP Apheresis Center, allowing healthy individuals to donate life-saving stem cells at GHS for use in patients around the world. The closest donor apheresis center is in Charleston, with GHS team serving donors from across the United States. This NMDP partnership also allows GHS patients to be matched with anonymous donors from across the world.
“Our comprehensive FACT accreditation, coupled with the extent of our reach through our NMDP designation, continues to help us push the envelope in bringing opportunities for life-saving therapies to this region,” said Larry Gluck, MD, medical director of the GHS Cancer Institute. “Very few transplant centers can provide this service due to the intensity of the work. GHS continues this work as a community service for the greater good. That is what we do here.”
In 2014, the National Institutes of Health named GHS Cancer Institute among the nation’s best in research with its award to GHS of a multi-million dollar grant to conduct clinical trials aimed at improving patient outcomes and reducing health disparities.
Mrs. King, her family and staff celebrated what Mrs. King called her re-birthday, complete with sparkling apple cider, gourmet cupcakes and birthday streamers and balloons.