Carolinas HealthCare System
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Levine Cancer Institute Opens Charlotte’s First Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit

Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute opened the region’s first adult blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) unit last week. This state-of-the-art unit is part of the Institute’s expanding hematologic oncology program, which includes a team of internationally recognized experts who specialize in leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, transplantation and non-malignant hematologic disorders.

“This new space was designed to meet the needs of transplant patients and their families, while providing the most advanced technologies and treatment,” said Dr. Edward Copelan, chair of the Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders. “Instead of having to travel nearly three hours to receive care at other hospitals with similar services, these patients now have access to life-saving treatments provided by some of the most highly regarded physicians in the world right here in Charlotte.”

The unit will include 16 specialized rooms, an apheresis unit for the collection of donor cells for patients, and a cell processing lab located on the fourth floor of Carolinas Medical Center. The entire unit is a positive pressure environment, where highly filtered air is circulated 12 times an hour, exceeding industry standards. This minimizes the risk of patients developing infection and experiencing other complications that can be associated with the transplant process.

Because treatment and recovery can last up to six weeks, the unit also includes several features supporting the patient’s overall well-being including an exercise room, larger patient rooms to accommodate family members, a family locker room and laundry room.

The program’s expansion will also facilitate the development of new research at the Institute. Over the past four months, eight new clinical trials for blood cancers have opened, and seven more are slated to open by the end of February. By the end of 2014, the Institute is expected to be one of the leading enrolling sites for blood cancer clinical trials in the country. Dr. Copelan and Dr. Belinda Avalos, vice-chair of the Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders at the Institute, recently published a study that was accepted into Blood, the nation’s leading hematology-oncology journal, which followed more than 1,000 bone marrow transplant cases to compare the effectiveness of two treatments options for patients with acute myeloid leukemia.

"Our entire hematologic-oncology program is expanding to meet the increased needs of all blood cancer patients, through participation in national clinical research studies that test novel technologies and treatments,” Dr. Avalos said. “The ability for patients to access clinical trials and receive world-class care without having to travel far from their homes or families exemplifies the goals and mission of Levine Cancer Institute.”

Dr. Copelan and Dr. Avalos were recruited to the Institute in 2012 from the Cleveland Clinic and The Ohio State University to oversee the development of the blood cancer program, and have since been joined by several leading physicians from the nation’s top-ranked cancer centers:

  • Saad Usmani, MD, FACP is director of the Plasma Cell Disorders program and director of Clinical Research in Hematologic Malignancies. Dr. Usmani was recruited to the Institute from the University of Arkansas.
  • Jonathan Gerber, MD, is director of the Leukemia program and was recruited from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Michael Grunwald, MD, recently joined the Hematologic Malignancies and Blood Disorders Faculty and was recruited from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Omotayo Fasan, MD, is director of Apheresis and was recruited from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“This team of physicians is among the best in the country and brings an unparalleled level of care and expertise to the Carolinas,” said Dr. Derek Raghavan, president of Levine Cancer Institute. “Our mission is to provide the best cancer care where our patients live, and the development of this new space is a significant step towards ensuring that there are no barriers preventing our patients from accessing the advanced, high-quality care that they need.”