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MedUni Vienna leading centre for bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation

(Vienna, 24 Feb. 2010) Major honour for MedUni Vienna: the bone marrow transplantation in Department of Medicine I at the AKH Vienna has developed into one of the leading transplant centres in the world in recent years. Expert Univ. Prof. Dr. Hildgard Greinix has been able to bring the 36th Annual EBMT Congress to Vienna from 21 to 24 March. Here many top international experts will be presenting their latest findings, and MedUni Vienna is also playing a leading role here.

Today bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantations (BSCT) are an established form of therapy for many patients with haematological-oncological diseases such as acute and chronic leukaemia, lymphomas and myelomas. Here the stem cells found in the bone marrow and the pathologically changed blood cells which are continuously formed by these are destroyed by high doses of chemo- and radiotherapy and then healthy stem cells are transferred to the arm vein via infusion. The blood stem cells find their way automatically into the medullary cavities of the bones, stay there and start to form new healthy blood cells.

The fact that this procedure now promises high success rates for previously incurable patients is because of the continuous improvements in the area of treatment measures, tissue typing and therefore donor selection, the conversion of bone marrow and blood stem cells and the improved possibilities of modern immunosuppression. This is because, with good tissue tolerance with the donated stem cells, the immune cells transferred together with the stem cells can also be directed against tissue and organs of the recipient. Routinely administered immunosuppressive agents suppress these graft-versus-host reactions (GVHD), but also make the organism susceptible to infections.

New from Vienna: opportunity for weaker and older patients
Until recently, patients with serious previous diseases, a weakened general condition and older patients (from around the age of 55) were excluded from allogeneic stem cell transplantation (i.e. the stem cells come from a donor) because they usually did not survive the high dose of chemo and radiotherapy. Now there is hope for this group of people: doctors use the graft-versus-host reactions specifically and in combination with pre-treatment with a reduced dose to eliminate the leukaemia and tumour cells, and are achieving great success in healing patients here.

Viennese innovation for effective treatment of GVHD
Despite prophylaxis, around 30% of all patients with a family donor and 70% of patients with an unrelated donor develop an acute graft-versus-host reaction, which occurs within the first weeks and mainly affects the skin, liver and intestinal mucosa. Chronic GVHD occurs only months later and then attacks many different organ systems such as the skin, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, liver, lungs and gastro-intestinal tract. Serious forms of GVHD lead to the most serious infections and organ damage, threatening the survival of these patients. So it is vital to detect graft-versus-host reactions at an early stage and to develop corresponding treatment strategies, and these are another area of focus of the EBMT Congress. As well as the use of various antibodies, "extracorporeal photopheresis" is a recognised, highly effective and well-tolerated strategy. After being initially developed at the Medical University of Vienna, it is now used by many transplant centres throughout the world.

Another new strategy is the transplantation of blood stem cells as an accompanying measure alongside organ transplantations from the same donor. In selected patients treated with this method it has already been possible for the new organ to be tolerated without immunosuppressive drugs.

The MedUni Vienna expert Univ. Prof. Dr. Hildegard Greinix, scientific chair of this, the biggest European congress on the theme, expects lasting impetus: "Many top experts and pioneers acknowledged throughout the world in the field of allogeneic stem cell transplantation, including Prof. Rainer Storb from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle/USA and Prof. Karl Blume from the Cancer Center of Stanford University/USA, are presenting and discussing the latest research developments. Stem cell transplantation is a highly innovative field always with the most interesting developments which enable us to cure even more patients with blood and tumour diseases."

36th Annual Meeting of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation
21–24 March 2010
Austria Center Vienna
» www.congrex.ch/ebmt2010/

4th EBMT Patient & Family Day
Sa., 20 March 2010, 9:00 – 17:00
Universitätscampus (Altes AKH)
Teilnahme kostenlos
» Download Programmfolder
Anmeldung unter www.congrex.ch/ebmt2010 erwünscht