Nov. 6, 2001


S.D. Blood & Marrow Transplant Programs
Form Part Of National Research Network

Blood and marrow transplant (BMT) patients in San Diego soon will have access to important new clinical trials from across the nation, thanks to a national BMT network formed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The new Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Research Network is comprised of a San Diego consortium of the UCSD/Sharp BMT Program*, The Scripps Research Institute and the Scripps Health BMT Program, 13 other clinical centers, a data coordinating center, the NHLBI and the NCI (complete list attached). This innovative, national-network approach is designed to accelerate the research necessary to make transplants safer and easier to undergo, to reduce or prevent side effects, and to better determine which procedures are best for patients.

Edward Ball, M.D.
Edward Ball, M.D.

"Blood and marrow transplantation is proving to be an important option for many patients, but there are significant questions that remain to be answered," said Edward D. Ball, M.D., principal investigator for the San Diego study site, and director of the UCSD/Sharp BMT Program. "By making high quality clinical trials available to more patients, we will get these answers much more quickly, and patients will benefit in the process."

Recent developments in the field hold promise for making major improvements in both the safety and effectiveness of transplantation.

For example:

Locally, Ball and colleagues in the UCSD/Sharp BMT Program are developing new biological approaches designed to enhance the effectiveness of stem cell transplantation. These include the development of monoclonal antibodies to target malignant cells, approaches to increase the immune systemís early recognition of leukemia cells, post-transplant vaccination with the patientís own tumor antigens, and the use of monoclonal antibodies to augment graft-versus-tumor effects following transplant. The researchers are also exploring the use of stem cells to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Daniel R. Salomon, M.D., and Bruce E. Torbett, Ph.D., at The Scripps Research Institute in the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine have been working to develop new strategies using gene therapy to increase the safety of transplants and to allow transplants between unrelated individuals to be done more safely. If this is successful, the numbers of patients eligible for a transplant would increase significantly while a major complication of transplantation, graft-versus-host disease, would be decreased dramatically.

The Scripps Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program was founded in 1980 and is under the direction of James R. Mason, M.D. Autologous (self-donated) and allogeneic (donor derived) stem cell transplantation is performed. There are two major areas of research activity currently coordinated in conjunction with The Scripps Research Institute. Scripps transplant researchers are developing new methods for allogeneic stem cell transplantation allowing patients who are older, or compromised by their illness, to undergo this life-saving therapy. Scripps researchers also have been successful in developing clinical programs using stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis.

"Progress is being made on many fronts, but there is now an urgent need to evaluate and compare these promising new approaches with existing ones in a coordinated way," said Ball, professor of medicine at UCSD School of Medicine, and leader of the Translational Oncology Program of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center.**

Centers were selected through a competitive grant process conducted jointly by the NHLBI and the NCI. Each center or consortium was awarded a grant of approximately $2 million for a period of five years.

#  #  #

*In 1999, UCSD Healthcare and Sharp HealthCare established a blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) program that is jointly managed by both organizations.

**Founded in 1979, UCSD Cancer Center was recently renamed the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center in honor of the Mooresí leadership gift to the Center.

Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Research Network List of Centers

Data Coordinating Center:
     Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Clinical Centers:
     Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland
     Childrenís Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Mo.
     City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, Ca.
     Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston
     Duke University, Durham, NC
     Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
     San Diego Consortium (UCSD, Sharp, TSRI, ScrippsHealth)
     Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, New York
     Stanford University, Stanford, Ca.
     University of Florida, Gainesville
     University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
     University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis
     University of Nebraska, Omaha
     University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Media Contact:
Nancy Stringer

UCSD Health Sciences Communications HealthBeat: