Bone marrow program at Methodist gaining notoriety, saving lives

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For some patients battling cancer, a bone marrow transplant could be the difference between life and death. One center in Memphis is making a difference by giving African Americans a 90 percent chance of finding a bone marrow match.

Two years ago John Williams was diagnosed with myelopysplastic syndrome, a form of cancer in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough healthy blood cells.

He was told if he didn’t get a bone marrow transplant he would die.

After three to four months of searching for a donor, doctors with the Blood and Marrow Transplant program at Methodist University found a relative who was a match and Williams is now in remission.

“There was a need in the area,” said Dr. Yasser Khaled, the program director. “A lot of African American patients who can`t have a donor because unrelated donors the chance of finding one is 10 percent. So, the evolving new concept of developing new methods for transplants allowed us to find donors for most of these patients.”

The center does DNA testing of patients and then checks their siblings and children. They then check the national donor database.

The two-year-old program at Methodist University is considered one of the best in the country.