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Bone Marrow Transplantation in Downtown Makati

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Makati City in Metro Manila hosts the Philippines’ premier business hub. It is one of Asia’s sterling examples of self-engineering to provide urban capitals with livable environments, stimulating cultural fare, contemporary leisure and shopping enclaves for enhanced lifestyles.

The look and feel of Makati reflects the bustling blend of corporate cores and cozy, tree-lined residential hives, including exclusive and plush subdivisions for the Philippines’ privileged and influential sector of landed employers, self-made entrepreneurs, esteemed professionals and diplomatic representatives.

While the needs of every metropolitan site are certainly diverse, Makati’s requirements stand distinct to fully service its daytime population of highly-discerning groups. The criteria for making it here in Makati are nothing less than world-class.

Thus, for a medical and healthcare institution to survive at the heart of the Makati central business district, nothing less than foremost service is expected. Though its daily challenges, the Makati Medical Center has proven its mark as a premier institution, providing treatment and patient care fit to international standards.

The hospital is backed by almost 40 years of experience in healthcare and staffed by the country’s most competent health professionals. Throughout these years, it has built Centers of Excellence in particular fields.

Cancer Center and Its Bone Marrow Transplant Unit

One of these Centers of Excellence is the Cancer Center, a facility that offers a holistic approach to healing.  The Center, with its modern equipment, team of medical experts and multidisciplinary approach, is at par with international cancer treatment practices.  The Cancer Center also has the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Unit under it.  Bone marrow transplantation is a standard treatment for both malignant and non-malignant blood diseases.  It is now considered frontline treatment to increase chances of survival.  While BMT centers are already widespread abroad, Makati Med is one of the few Philippine hospitals that offer it.

Makati Med’s BMT Unit, like the rest of the Cancer Center, is equipped with the latest machines using progressive technologies and run by doctors and nurses who are all board-certified and specially trained.  Many of the doctors have received further specialization and certification in foreign universities and hospitals.  Aside from clinical staff, nurses also keep abreast of treatment procedures and patient care through continuous education and constant training.

Hematologic malignancies that are potentially curable with bone marrow transplantation include acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), multiple relapsed lymphomas (MRL), multiple myeloma and myeloproliferative diseases.

Bone marrow transplantation is also offered as a treatment to patients with non-malignant blood diseases such as aplastic anemia, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, and immune deficiency disorders.

Abnormalities in the blood occur when there is an arrest in the development of the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets ~ cells that originate from the stem cells produced in the bone marrow.   Blood diseases treated in the BMT are classified based on the cell of origin.  The differentiation is important as it determines which treatment is more appropriate and effective.

Acute leukemia, such as AML and ALL, dictates a preference for an allogeneic transplant, since it involves the transplantation of stem cells from a donor.  An allogeneic transplant also has the added benefit of “graft-versus-tumor” or leukemia effect, where the donor’s stem cells recognize the patient’s leukemia as foreign and attack these cells. In an allogeneic procedure, immature progenitor stem cells are harvested from the donor and transfused back to the patient.  In approximately two weeks, the donor’s stem cells are supposed to have engrafted.

Siblings are the preferred donors in a bone marrow transplant since a sibling has a 25 percent chance of having a matched human leukocyte antigen (HLA).  HLA typing, or ascertaining a match requires a laboratory procedure that takes less than a week to perform.

In the event that there is no match, an autologous transplant is also offered as an alternative.  Autologous transplant involves the harvesting of stem cells from the patient himself.  The cells are stored and are to be infused into him.

Both allogeneic and autologous procedures are done in the Makati Med BMT through an apharesis machine.  The machine is an advanced tool that eases the treatment procedure for both patients and donors by collecting the necessary cells through a process similar to blood transfusion.  The apharesis machine can be programmed to extract only the cells needed.  The machine is attached to a catheter that is connected to a donor’s vein in the groin.  The stem cells are immediately transfused to the patient.

Old treatment procedures require an actual harvest and transplant of the bone marrow from the donor to the patient.  That being an already painful procedure, patients were also required intensive chemotherapy or even total body irradiation besides.

While chemotherapy is not completely eliminated from the treatment, the apharesis machine manages pain and keeps it to a minimum by eliminating actual bone marrow transplantation.  Instead, patients now undergo peripheral stem cell transplantation, which increases comfort of the patients and their families.

Patients who undergo treatment at the Makati Med BMT are normally released from the hospital after five weeks and are seen as outpatients twice a week for the next 100 days.  Throughout this period, the patients are supported with medications to help prevent infection, rejection to the grafted cells and other diseases.  Clinic visits and laboratory tests dwindle eventually, as the patient’s body gets accustomed to the transplant.

As much as an 80% chance of success may be hoped for the diseases treated in the BMT, especially if they are treated in the early stages.

At a quarter of the cost of services offered by United States hospitals, Makati Med’s BMT provides the same optimum quality treatment and compassionate care from its people.

Dr. Francisco F. Lopez heads the Makati Med BMT Unit.  Certified by the American Board of Hematology and the American Board of Oncology, Dr. Lopez has handled 23 of the over 40 cases of bone marrow transplant in the country.

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