GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 11, 2017) – Greenville Health System (GHS) opened its newly expanded McCrary Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at Greenville Memorial Hospital today. The new unit, which features eight large patient rooms, an up-to-99-percent purified air system, and amenities such as music therapy and a wellness suite, will allow more patients to receive life-saving cancer care closer to home.
“Excellent medical treatment is critical, but so is family support,” said Dr. Suzanne Fanning, medical director of the unit and a nationally recognized hematologist/medical oncologist. “It is incredibly important that patients be treated close to home, where they can continue to receive support from family and see their loved ones within the safe confines of a closed unit like the McCrary Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit.”
The $2 million expansion was made possible by an outpouring of community support, including a seed gift from Bill and Esta McCrary, for whom the unit is named.
“Cancer is a horrible and dehumanizing disease that turns your life upside down,” said Bill McCrary. “There’s probably not a single person in the Upstate who hasn’t had some contact with cancer – if not in their own family, then in their friends. It is always a disruptive event – but especially when patients have to travel for care. We’re thrilled that we can help provide this wonderful option for families to be able to stay local and still get the great care they need.”
Blood and marrow transplantation is an aggressive therapy for patients with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Some solid tumors, including advanced testicular cancer and other blood-borne diseases such as aplastic and sickle cell anemias, are also treated with this potentially curative therapy. In some cases, donor marrow cells are obtained from the donor’s pelvic bone. More commonly however, peripheral blood stem cells are obtained from a temporary catheter placed in the donor’s neck. In fact, bone marrow transplants are frequently referred to as peripheral blood stem cell transplants.
The healthy donor cells are preserved, then infused into the patient’s body to essentially replace diseased or treatment-damaged bone marrow. It can take up to 30 days for the healthy donor cells to grow and spread throughout the patient’s body. In some cases, the healthy cells allow patients to continue undergoing aggressive therapies like chemotherapy. In other cases, these new cells actually help kill cancer cells.
“When cancer strikes, it attacks the body and the psyche. Patients often express a sense of vulnerability and defenselessness when placed into battle with a foreign invader like cancer,” said Larry Gluck, MD, medical director of the GHS Cancer Institute. “Medicine fights the foe, but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s frequently community support that helps re-humanize the cancer journey. The McCrarys have made that possible for numerous patients fighting blood cancers in our community, and we are indebted to them and so many others for enabling the GHS Cancer Institute to use its national-level expertise to provide high quality care close to home.”
The GHS Cancer Institute is the state’s only collection site for the National Marrow Donor Program. Since it began, the donor collection program has had more than 150 donor referrals. These donor cells have been collected and sent regionally as well as nationally to support patients with life-threatening diseases.
The region’s first blood and marrow transplant was done at GHS in 1992.
Recent research has led to many successful breakthroughs such as the use of half-match donations from some family members. That means that parents, siblings, and even children can potentially provide the life-saving cells that patients need. This means that more people than ever before may be able to benefit from blood and marrow transplants. For many diseases, a blood or marrow transplant is the only cure at this time.