Economic Backbone: Cancer Care
Tampa General's new bone marrow transplant unit targets aggressive blood cancers.
Tampa General Hospital’s Bone Marrow Transplant and Cell Therapies Unit, part of TGH’s Cancer Institute, opened last spring, offering another option for patients seeking treatment for aggressive blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other disorders.
Located in downtown Tampa’s burgeoning medical district — which TGH and the University of South Florida have been developing over the last four years — the unit is less than a dozen miles from Moffitt Cancer Center’s Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program center, which was established in 1989 and is one of the largest programs of its kind in the Southeast.
The Moffitt unit handles about 425 bone marrow transplants a year. It’s also among only a few programs nationally that offer transplantation to adults 70 and older.
“People travel for bone marrow transplants and cellular therapy,” says John Couris, TGH’s CEO. “As a matter of fact, our first bone marrow transplant patient came from Palm Beach County. By adding a bone marrow transplant and cellular therapy program, we’re giving the residents of the Tampa Bay region and Florida more options.”
Couris says the unit’s opening followed two years of planning, including consulting with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which has had a bone marrow transplant program since 1992 and does about 150 transplants annually.
Typically, the therapy entails removing stem cells from the bone marrow or blood of a cancer patient or from a donor. After undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, the patient gets the stem cells back via an intravenous infusion.
“Bone marrow transplant and now cell therapies can significantly increase the chance of recovery from blood cancers and, hopefully soon, of patients with solid malignancies,” says Abraham Schwarzberg, executive vice president of network development and chief of oncology/vice president of clinical and translational research at TGH. “Our program can also provide improved continuity of care for our TGH Cancer Institute patients. They no longer have to transfer to another facility. They can stay here with their physicians and caregivers.”