The Importance of World-Class Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplant Services

Michael W. Schuster, MD, Director, Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Transplantation Program; Director, Hematologic Malignancies, is a world-renowned research physician who recently joined Stony Brook with a mission to expand transplant services and to ensure that people on Long Island have access to the same high level of care available in New York City.

What does the expansion of Stony Brook’s program mean to Long Island residents?

People on Long Island will no longer have to travel to hospitals in Manhattan to receive sophisticated and lifesaving transplantation services or have access to the latest clinical trials. Services include treatment for conditions such as:

  • Acute and chronic leukemias
  • Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
  • Multiple myeloma and other plasma cell disorders
  • Severe aplastic anemia and other marrow failure states
  • Sickle-cell disease and thalassemia
  • Inherited immune system disorders, such as severe combined immunodeficiency and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Inherited metabolic disorders, such as Hurler’s syndrome and leukodystrophies
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes

What is your vision for the Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation Program?

We will be building on Stony Brook’s existing program, which already has an excellent reputation, to dramatically expand its reach. I have brought my transplant team with me—most of whom have worked together for 20 years—which adds another layer of experience and expertise to the program. We will not only integrate with Stony Brook’s current team but we will also be recruiting experts from around the country to join us as we grow. Stony Brook has made a tremendous commitment of resources, including the building of a new wing to house the program. This will give us the space necessary to provide services to treat more patients. One of the things that attracted me to Long Island was the large patient population with unmet needs. We now anticipate that any patient who needs a stem cell transplant will be able to get one here. We are also bringing state-of-the-art transplant techniques such as umbilical cord blood and unrelated donor transplants.

Stony Brook has all the right ingredients in place—a large patient population, a need in the community for these services, a strong research program, and the willingness to commit significant resources to growing a bone marrow and stem cell transplant program.

Why is a program like this so valuable to patients?

Early in my career, I saw that bone marrow and stem cell transplants not only held great promise—they actually cured patients. And over the years, the cure rates have steadily risen. In fact, the research in this area has one of the shortest time spans from laboratory to bedside in all of medicine. This means that having access to programs like Stony Brook’s can make a real difference. In the recent past, patients had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant when they ran out of options. Today, for many conditions, they are used at a much earlier stage, greatly affecting outcomes and quality of life. In many cases, we are talking about cures. It also means access to research. At Stony Brook, patients will have access to many exciting clinical trials that will bring newly developed medications and techniques to them here, locally. We are developing more and more effective treatments every day. Stony Brook is now a big part of this.

What research are you currently working on?

Stony Brook is now one of two centers in the U.S. using a new technique for doing so-called “hapoidentical” transplants. These transplants allow the use of cells from family members even if they are not a complete match. The new technique will help eliminate two of the biggest problems we face with transplantation; namely, immunological issues and infections. Having been involved in the development of two drugs (one for chronic myelogenous leukemia and the other for multiple myeloma) that have revolutionized treatment for these diseases, I look forward to further advances in cancer treatment.

For more information about Stony Brook’s Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation Program, call (631) 444-4000.

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