Smita Bhatia is a pediatric oncologist with a strong interest in cancer outcomes at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has received several grant awards from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) during her career. Recently it was announced that her Translational Research Program funding would be renewed for a study about preventing long-term health complications in bone marrow transplant survivors.
In the simplest of terms, what is your research project about?
Hematopoietic cell transplantation (formerly known as bone marrow transplantation or BMT) is now routinely used as a treatment strategy for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. The number of HCTs performed in the U.S. is growing at the rate of about 5 percent per year. Over 70 percent of patients who survive the first two years after HCT become long-term survivors.
However, cure of the underlying disease is not accompanied by full restoration of health. Transplant survivors are at a high risk of developing chronic health conditions after HCT (e.g., second cancers, heart failure and pulmonary toxicity). In fact, the incidence of life-threatening or fatal long-term complications increases from 9 percent at two years post-HCT to 41 percent at 15 years, necessitating close follow-up across the lifespan of HCT recipients.
The substantial burden of treatment-related morbidity developing several years after HCT presents a critical need to: i) accurately characterize the long-term and late effects of HCT; ii) advance knowledge about the influence of genetic factors on post-HCT morbidity and mortality; iii) determine if treatment-related complications are exacerbated when more than one is present at once; iv) refine health screening and standardize recommendations for long-term follow-up of HCT survivors; and v) guide the development of health-preserving interventions.
We propose to follow about 8,000 survivors, transplanted between 1974 and 2012, at one of three participating institutions (University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), City of Hope, and University of Minnesota) to address these issues. We will also enroll 3,000 siblings to serve as a comparison group. We propose to describe the burden of morbidity carried by the transplant survivors. We also propose to collect DNA from patients so that we can determine the genetic basis for some of these complications.
Finding out you have blood cancer can bring on a whirlwind of emotions and a plethora of questions. No one expects to get such a diagnosis and there isn’t anything you can do to prepare.
Regardless of how you came to your diagnosis, most people report not having absorbed a lot of information after hearing the word “cancer." The vocabulary may seem like a foreign language, and the need for support can be tremendous.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) can help.
Trained information specialists can help you deal with the challenges of your diagnosis and provide information about treatment options. The master's level oncology social workers, nurses and health educators in our Information Resource Center (IRC) can talk about accurate and up-to-date disease, treatment and support information, and assist with financial and social challenges.
Here are some additional support services you can tap into from home:
Online Chats : Moderated by a social worker, our live, weekly online chats provide a friendly forum to share experiences and chat with others about anything from the initial phase of diagnosis to treatment and survivorship. We offer chat groups for:
Discussion Boards: From financial issues to coping with treatment, there are several discussion boards covering a wide array of topics. Discussion boards are available 24/7 for you to post any questions or share your experiences with others.
Getting the courage to work out is often harder than the workout itself. This is especially true when fitness plans include goals that are hard to measure. Fortunately, through a special partnership with Fitbit, many women in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Moms In Training program are learning to better manage their workouts and track their progress.
LLS teamed up with Fitbit for the second time this year to help Moms In Training participants stay motivated while getting in shape for a local run or walk. Fitbit’s activity trackers automatically track daily steps, calories burned, distance traveled and active minutes. Most also track floors climbed and sleep duration and quality. The more advanced products track heart rate and GPS-based information, and incorporate smartphone integration like text and call notifications.
Rachel Spurrier, a head coach in Brooklyn, New York, is an experienced runner who, until recently, never used a tracking device. She finds the Fitbit Charge HR pretty addictive, even when she’s not training because it tracks her steps when she’s doing errands, going to meetings, etc. During a recent coaching session, the moms were able to track their heart rates during difficult hill repetitions. One woman was feeling particularly nervous, but picking up the pace and heart rate each time – and having the data to prove it - ultimately helped her finish with a smile on her face.
“This mom will probably feel even more motivated about her fundraising efforts this week, she’ll probably have more energy to devote to her kids, and she also realized that by working a little harder, she feels so much better about herself and her outlook on her day,” Spurrier said.
Lois Adelman has been an avid Fitbit user for the past two years. Last year, she created a group for fellow trainers who called themselves “Fitbit Friends” to keep each other on track even when they weren’t training together. This year, they took their training up a notch and formed a group of “Fitbit Fighters” to track their daily goals and keep each other motivated.