As part of its commitment to world-class, innovative cancer care for the Tampa Bay region and beyond, Tampa General Hospital (TGH) Cancer Institute has established an adult Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) and Cell Therapies unit that focuses on treating patients with aggressive blood cancers such as leukemias, lymphomas, multiple myeloma as well as other cancers.
“As we continue to build a Cancer Institute that is at the forefront of innovative treatments for patients with complex cancers, the establishment of our state-of-the-art BMT and Cell Therapies Unit will broaden the portfolio of groundbreaking and life-saving treatment options for cancer patients in our state and beyond,” said Dr. Eduardo M. Sotomayor, director of the TGH Cancer Institute and an internationally recognized pioneer in the fields of cancer immunology and immunotherapy and hematologic tumors. “For many years, we have known of the life-saving properties of stem cells. However, we are just beginning to realize the power of an emerging field known as cell therapies. In our BMT and Cell Therapies unit, we aim to provide these therapies as well as make groundbreaking contributions to the field through innovative research.”
Bone marrow transplant (BMT), also known as stem cell therapy (SCT), is a proven treatment for patients with cancers of the blood for which the standard treatments have not been effective or those who have a high risk of relapsing after traditional therapies.
This therapy involves taking stem cells from the bone marrow or peripheral blood from a cancer patient or from a donor. The stem cells are collected in special bags and stored in freezers just for that purpose. After the patient receives high-dose chemotherapy, the collected stem cells are thawed and given back to the cancer patient through an intravenous infusion (IV) to produce blood cells and to re-establish a healthier immune system. “The whole process is performed in a highly specialized unit so that the time spent in the hospital is shortened,” said Sotomayor.
After several months of careful planning and designing, the TGH Cancer Institute BMT and Cell Therapies Unit opened in Spring 2022. Due to the susceptibility of these patients to infection, the unit has extra layers of infection control, including HEPA filtration, air exchanges, and water filtration. Private inpatient rooms are decorated in soothing natural color palettes and artwork and have large windows with waterfront views. Secure digital smart boards in each room help with patient and family communication and small refrigerators allow for additional patient nourishment. Each room also includes an exercise bike to help patients build their strength and a couch converts into sleeping space for a family member to stay with the patient.
“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,” said Dr. Abraham Schwarzberg, chief of oncology and senior vice president of network development at Tampa General. “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.”
The TGH Cancer Institute’s BMT and Cell Therapies Unit reflects the Institute’s philosophy of bringing together a range of multidisciplinary specialties that strongly emphasizes compassionate and personalized care focusing on the whole patient. In addition to physicians who are hematology oncologists with specific training in bone marrow transplant and immunotherapy, the team includes highly trained nurse practitioners, nurse navigators, nurses, social workers, counselors, spiritual services, physical and occupational therapy, dietary services, and pharmacy.
Tampa General’s cancer physicians offer a highly coordinated range of multidisciplinary specialties such as hematologic malignancies, thoracic, breast, colorectal, gynecologic oncology, and now bone marrow transplant and cell therapies. Advanced subspecialties include liver and hepatobiliary oncology, otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat), and genitourinary (reproductive system and genitourinary tract). Tampa General will continue to take a multidisciplinary approach and will strongly emphasize compassionate and personalized care that focuses on the whole patient. For more information about the TGH Cancer Institute, visit www.tgh.org/cancer.
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