Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Begins Study To Improve Quality Of Life For Marrow Transplant Patients

November 13, 1998

Seattle - The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is beginning a five-year study to look at the physical and psychological of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation. The study is funded by a $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The Hutchinson Center is one of 15 national centers selected out of 80 that applied for grant funding to conduct cancer survivor studies.

"Transplantation offers hope to so many people," says Karen Syrjala, Ph.D., a behavioral psychologist at the Hutchinson Center. "Our goals are to define long term issues that people struggle with, to define some of the positive growth from an experience like transplant and, most important, to give people more options to improve the quality of their lives."

According to Syrjala, when patients come for transplant the focus is often on survival, but increasingly patients are asking many questions about how normal their lives will be afterward. Will they feel like themselves? Will their brains work as well? Will they have the stamina to keep up with their kids? Will their sex lives be the same? Researchers know that most people get back to work and back to their family lives, but they are just starting to be able to answer questions about the real quality of those lives.

The study team, led by Syrjala, includes colleagues from the University of Washington, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, McGill University in Montreal, and a former transplant recipient who's the author of the Blood and Transplant Newsletter.

To identify factors that will enhance the long-term survival and quality of life for marrow and stem cell transplant recipients researchers will evaluate the functioning of adult survivors in the areas of work, stamina, cognition, family adaptations, emotional fluctuations, infertility, sexual function and, in women, menopausal symptoms.

Researchers also will:The study is designed to define and then pilot interventions to target long-term survivors most at risk. More than 200 marrow transplant survivors over the age of 18 will participate in the study. All participants have been followed by the Center since before their transplant.

The first group to be studied will involve 108 people who are more than five years post-transplant. This group will be followed through their 10-year survival point. The second group will involve 100 survivors who are now one or two years after transplant. They will be followed intensively through the next five years. A subset of the five-year survivor cohort will participate in a pilot study of interventions to reduce long-term impacts on marrow transplantation survivors.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. The mission of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is the elimination of cancer as a cause of human suffering and death. The Center conducts research of the highest standards to improve prevention and treatment of cancer and related diseases. The Center is recognized as one of the premier institutes for marrow transplantation. Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, director emeritus, Hutchinson Center's clinical research division, received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering work in marrow transplantation in 1990.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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