Stem cell transplant center opens at CTCA

Can­cer Treat­ment Cen­ter of Amer­ica of­fers a new wing de­signed with state-of-the-art tech­no­logy to make pa­tients feel at ease. 

  • One of the hospitals new additions includes a room of liquid nitrogen vaults that store stem cells. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Part of the CTCA’s new stem cell transplant center. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Part of the CTCA’s new stem cell transplant center. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • The new wing: Dr. Pamela Crilley is co-director of the stem cell transplant center at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • The new wing: Dr. Pamela Crilley is co-director of the stem cell transplant center at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

A sign in Can­cer Treat­ment Cen­ters of Amer­ica’s new stem cell trans­plant cen­ter de­clares that, “Blood Can­cers Have a New En­emy in Town.”

The 17,000-square-foot cen­ter in­cludes eight in­pa­tient rooms, an in­fu­sion suite and a blood and stem cell col­lec­tion unit.

Many of the em­ploy­ees have more than two dec­ades of ex­per­i­ence in the stem cell trans­plant field.

“There’s a lot of ex­per­i­ence be­hind this team,” said Re­gina Mul­laney, the stem cell pro­cessing man­ager and 25-year vet­er­an of a sim­il­ar unit at Hahne­mann Uni­versity Hos­pit­al.

The cen­ter of­fi­cially opened on Ju­ly 1.

The un­of­fi­cial grand open­ing on June 27 in­cluded a rib­bon cut­ting, open house and con­cert by the Point­er Sis­ters in a large en­closed tent in the main park­ing lot of CTCA, at 1331 E. Wyom­ing Ave.

One vis­it­or that day was Dr. Siddhartha Mukher­jee, au­thor of the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning book The Em­per­or of All Mal­ad­ies: A Bio­graphy of Can­cer, which is be­ing de­veloped as a six-hour doc­u­ment­ary for pub­lic tele­vi­sion by Ken Burns.

CTCA’s new ro­gram provides stem cell trans­plant­a­tion ther­apies and oth­er treat­ments for pa­tients with hem­at­o­lo­gic ma­lig­nan­cies such as leuk­emia, lymph­oma and mul­tiple my­el­oma.

“It’s tre­mend­ous to have this avail­able for these pa­tients,” Mul­laney said.

Such com­plic­ated blood can­cers of­ten re­quire ag­gress­ive treat­ments and lengthy hos­pit­al stays.

After re­ceiv­ing a trans­plant, the hos­pit­al stay can range from a few weeks to a few months, as a pa­tient’s im­mune sys­tem re­cov­ers. CTCA ac­cepts many com­mer­cial in­sur­ance plans and some Medi­care plans.

The staff also of­fers stress man­age­ment and emo­tion­al cop­ing skills for pa­tients and their fam­il­ies. CTCA’s “Pa­tient Em­powered Care” team in­cludes a hem­at­o­lo­gist, di­eti­tian, na­tur­o­path­ic on­co­logy pro­vider, nurse care man­ager and trans­plant co­ordin­at­or.

The hos­pit­al’s med­ic­al staff will be rais­ing aware­ness of the Be the Match Re­gistry, op­er­ated by the Na­tion­al Mar­row Donor Pro­gram. In­di­vidu­als can join the re­gistry with the swab of their cheek.

The new cen­ter is loc­ated on the hos­pit­al’s fourth floor.

“It’s really nice that it is all con­tigu­ous on the same floor,” said Dr. Pam Cri­l­ley, co-dir­ect­or of the cen­ter. “It’s a lot easi­er for pa­tients.”

The loc­al CTCA hos­pit­al is the third in the health-care com­pany to of­fer a stem cell trans­plant cen­ter, fol­low­ing ones in Zion, Ill. and Tulsa, Okla.

Hos­pit­al of­fi­cials ex­plained that there are two types of stem cells that are used in the trans­plant ther­apies: bone mar­row and hem­a­topoi­et­ic.

Bone mar­row is the soft, sponge-like ma­ter­i­al found in­side bones. It con­tains a spe­cif­ic kind of cell known as hem­a­topoi­et­ic cells, which cre­ate blood-form­ing stem cells.

Hem­a­topoi­et­ic stem cells di­vide to form more blood-form­ing stem cells, or they ma­ture in­to one of three types of blood cells: white blood cells, which fight in­fec­tion; red blood cells, which carry oxy­gen; and plate­lets, which help the blood to clot.

Most hem­a­topoi­et­ic stem cells are found in the bone mar­row. But oth­ers, called peri­pher­al blood stem cells, are found in the blood­stream.

CTCA took many months put­ting all the pieces in place.

Lisa Sabol, nurse man­ager of the new Phil­adelphia cen­ter, has been on the job since March after 30 years at Hahne­mann. She cred­its the staff’s ex­per­i­ence and ex­pert­ise in cre­at­ing what she thinks will be a lifesav­ing cen­ter.

“It’s the people, tech­no­logy and all the care that has gone in­to the pre­par­a­tion of the unit,” she said. “We’re get­ting pa­tients on the road to re­cov­ery.”

The trans­plant rooms are large and in­clude a re­cliner, stor­age space, big win­dows and a futon that can be used as a bed by a loved one. There are also two tele­vi­sions, en­abling the pa­tient to watch one pro­gram and the care­giver to watch an­oth­er show.

“It’s a clin­ic­al set­ting, so we try to make it as com­fort­able as pos­sible,” said nurse Heath­er Brown.

Vis­it­ors to the open house had the chance to stop and chat with na­tur­o­path­ic res­id­ent Kar­en Broth­ers, oc­cu­pa­tion­al ther­ap­ist Joe Domanico, phys­ic­al ther­ap­ist/re­hab­il­it­a­tion man­ager Kath­ryn Dor­an and re­gistered di­eti­tian Kar­en Marr.

Pa­tients will need their ser­vices as part of their re­cov­ery.

“It’s a pretty in­tense treat­ment re­gi­men,” Marr said.

Kur­rie Wells, a clin­ic­al health psy­cho­lo­gist, said in­sur­ance com­pan­ies want the best pos­sible out­comes for pa­tients, so they value mind-body medi­cine.

The hos­pit­al of­fers mind-body medi­cine be­fore, dur­ing and after treat­ment. It can in­clude sup­port groups, coun­sel­ing, in­di­vidu­al ther­apy and re­lax­a­tion tech­niques to man­age stress and dis­com­fort.

“It’s in­teg­rat­ive, com­pas­sion­ate care,” said Wells, the new dir­ect­or of CTCA’s mind body medi­cine pro­gram who formerly worked in a sim­il­ar ca­pa­city at Rush Uni­versity Med­ic­al Cen­ter in Chica­go. “We’re here for the pa­tient and the fam­ily.”

Dr. Dave To­pol­sky is co-dir­ect­or of the cen­ter with Cri­l­ley, a fel­low on­co­lo­gist and 20-year-plus vet­er­an of Hahne­mann.

To­pol­sky and Cri­l­ley cite the state-of-the-art tech­no­logy and home-away-from-home at­mo­sphere as ele­ments that make the cen­ter ex­tra spe­cial.

“What’s dif­fer­ent is the po­ten­tial of this unit and the abil­ity to use com­ple­ment­ary medi­cines on a daily basis,” To­pol­sky said. “We’re en­han­cing the pa­tient’s stay and out­come.” ••

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