Stem Cell Recipients Mostly Healthy 10 years later
In a widely reported story, researchers at the Fred K. Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, WA examined the health of stem cell recipients 10 years after the procedure. All 137 patients studied had received hematopoietic cell transplants (HCTs) to replace cancerous blood cells. HCTS are stem cells which can become either red or white blood cells. The patients were compared with 137 other persons, many of them siblings of the patients. All but one of the others were long-term friends, and were of the same age and race. The subjects and control group were asked to self-report.
The disease rates were similar for a number of conditions, including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and hypothyroidism. The findings on osteoporosis and hyperthroidism were contrary to researcher predictions that these would be higher in the transplant group. Employment rates and marital satisfaction matched the control group. Patients who had suffered a relapse in the blood cancer and then went back into remission were doing as well as the patients who had no relapse, which was seen as very good news; relapses have been viewed as major problems in the past.
The transplant recipients did have more musculoskeletal problems and higher incidences of urinary tract and sexual health problems. They also had higher rates of cataracts and hepatitits. Although the reported rate of depression was about the same as that in the control group, the transplant recipients were more likely to be taking antidepressants. Transplant recipients were also more likely to have health or life insurance denials.
The study authors conclude that transplant recipients shoud be checked for anxiety and depression, and could benefit from, bone mineral density monitoring, thyroid function testing, and screening for secondary neoplasms, cardiovascular health, and hepatitis C. It was noted that the problem the cancer survivors had were not life-threatening ones but were ones likely to be associated with aging.
The study, which appears in the September 20 issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology, has been reported by the BBC, MedPage Today, and Forbes, among others. Different news sources emphasize different aspects of the study; some focus on the similar overall health to the control group, and others focus on the higher incidence of specific problems.