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Blood and Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation for Older Adults

Andrew Artz, MD, examines a patient Andrew Artz, MD, leads the Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program.

Two decades ago, when stem cell transplant first became part of standard treatment for certain cancers and blood diseases, individuals older than 60 were rarely considered for the procedure. Today, age is no longer a barrier to this potentially life-saving therapy -- and most patients needing this treatment are over 60 years old. The Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program at the University of Chicago Medicine is at the forefront of care for these patients. From designing a health assessment tool now being explored by academic medical centers across the country, to exploring ways to enhance treatment and improve outcomes, our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to providing the best possible care for older adults undergoing stem cell transplant. This commitment extends to patients with complex conditions who may have been declined by other institutions.

Comprehensive Assessment and Care Coordination

Comprehensive Assessment and Care Coordination

Although chronological age is not a factor in transplant readiness, age-associated issues and conditions can impact a patient’s medical course and outcome. When it comes to assessing, evaluating and monitoring our older patients, the hematologist/oncologists on the stem cell transplant team partner with geriatric oncology experts in the Specialized Oncology Care and Research in the Elderly program (SOCARE). Unique in Chicago, and one of the few in the country, the SOCARE clinic anticipates and addresses the specific needs of older patients facing a cancer diagnosis and choosing treatment.

The Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program’s collaborative approach enables patients to meet with both teams in one convenient clinic visit. Treatment planning begins with a joint transplant and SOCARE health assessment that evaluates patients for the following:

  • Overall health status, including physical functioning
  • Medication review
  • The presence of other illness, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • Weakness and/or difficulty with mobility or balance
  • Mood concerns, including anxiety and depression
  • Memory deficits and other cognitive concerns
  • Nutritional needs
  • Social and family support before, during and after transplant
Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant team meet to discuss each patient's case.

The results of each patient’s health assessment is discussed in a multidisciplinary meeting staffed by:

  • Hematologists/oncologists
  • Geriatricians and geriatric oncologists
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Transplant nurses

Together as a team, these specialists identify any issues that could interfere with the success of the stem cell transplant process. The team then designs an individualized, comprehensive treatment and supportive care strategy that accounts for medical, physical, nutritional and psychosocial concerns. They also assist patients and families with navigating the stem cell transplant process from start-to-finish, including in-hospital assistance and follow-up care.

Helping Patients Through Research

Research is an integral part of SOCARE’s mission to advance cancer care for older adults. Our physician-scientists use the comprehensive health assessments for long-term studies to help improve outcomes and quality of life for older patients with cancer. Information gathered from this data will help researchers pinpoint barriers to stem cell transplantation as well as predict outcomes for this rapidly growing population of underserved patients.


Dr. Lucy Godley on Stem Cell Transplant

Lucy Godley, MD, PhD, talks about what stem cell transplants are like for the patient receiving the transplant, potential complications associated with the procedure, and the long-term prognosis after transplant.
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