When Ted Ave’Lallemant was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, his oncologist in Wisconsin suggested he seek a second opinion at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
His doctor had heard about the Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), which pioneered the procedure that has transformed how blood cancers are treated. SCCA has performed more than 16,000 bone marrow transplants, among the most of any cancer center in the world. The achievement isn’t surprising considering that the scientist who led the team that developed bone marrow transplant, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, worked at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which is part of SCCA.
Dr. Thomas won the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his achievement, which revolutionized outcomes for leukemia. Before bone marrow transplant, leukemia had no cure. Now, transplants have boosted survival rates to more than 85 percent for some blood cell disorders.
Not all centers can claim the same success. For the sixth consecutive year, SCCA has outperformed expected one-year survival rates for allogeneic transplants in which patients receive donor stem cells, according to a report released last week by the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research. SCCA is one of just five transplant centers among the 177 centers in the analysis to exceed the anticipated survival rates.
We are extremely proud that patients receiving allogeneic bone marrow transplants at SCCA can expect survival rates that are consistently better than the expected one-year survival rates,” said Dr. Marco Mielcarek, medical director for the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA and member of the clinical research division at Fred Hutch.
Ave’Lallemant’s story was featured on the SCCA blog in December to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Now 13 years post-transplant, Ave’Lallemant has continued to come to SCCA for annual check-ups at the Long-Term Follow-Up Program (LTFU), a comprehensive post-transplant survivorship program that provides life-long medical consultation services and tracks patients’ health and well-being.
On his final farewell visit in September, Ave’Lallemant and his wife, Cindie, met with his care team, helmed by Dr. Mary Flowers, medical director of the Adult Clinical Care Long-Term Follow-Up Program. In the exam room, Ave’Lallemant wondered aloud if he was justified in feeling confident that his disease was behind him.
He said to Dr. Flowers: “I’ve asked you to use the ‘cure’ word and you wouldn’t do it.”
“I will do it,” says Dr. Flowers.
“Cured?” asks Ave’Lallemant, incredulous.
“Yes,” says Dr. Flowers.
Cindie starts crying. “Thank you for everything,” she says. “This whole place has been the best thing ever. This place is why Ted is alive.”