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Welcome to the first part of a series on Hemato-oncology i.e. cancers of the hematopoietic system. We completed a review of Gastrointestinal Cancers in 18 parts, and a review of Breast Cancer prior to that. Thanks to the positive review from our readers about utility of this series to their day to day clinical practice and in teaching programs for medical students, we have decided to continue this series.

Question: Dr. Chiragbhai, thank you very much for a practical series on GI cancers. Our readers have appreciated the whole series. Now we are going from solid tumors to malignant hematology. Why have you chosen this topic over other much more common cancers like lung or head and neck cancers?
Answer: Thank you readers for your continued interest. Yes it is true that these cancers are much less common, but they are of special importance and interest.
Most of them occur at a much younger age, many are rapidly fatal if not diagnosed and treated in time, and have very good cure or control rates if treated properly. They are very interesting from medical science e.g. pathophysiology, genetics. Also, since Stem Cell Transplant plays a very important role in treatment of many of these, which is a topic of my recent interest.

Question: Yes Chiragbhai the word “Blood Cancer” still seems so scary that most people lose all hope when they consider this diagnosis as a possibility. Anything new in this disease, such as Stem Cell Transplant that you have started recently, seems to bring hope.
Answer: You are right, and my goal is to revive this hope by letting doctors know, in a scientific manner, that most “blood cancers” can either be cured or controlled for a long time, with several old and new medicines. Treatment is much better, safer and convenient in many cases. We have many patients who can testify to this. Some of our transplant patients have already volunteered to talk to newly diagnosed patients to give them hope.

We started Stem Cell Transplant in private sector about 3 years ago, and have completed 21 transplants, with short term results comparable to International Standards. Out of the 19 transplants performed at Apollo Hospital, we have had only oneTRM-transplant related mortality. Our program is so successful that we have already treated 3 international patients as well. Based on the confidence from results so far and rapidly rising number of queries, we are building a state of the art 6 bed stem cell transplant unit, which would be functional in next couple of months.

Good news is that this optimism about positive results in “blood cancers” is spreading and a USA based company Stemcyte, a world leader in Cord Blood Banking and its applications, is opening their first unit in India within Apollo Hospital, Ahmedabad campus in February 2010. Their presence will further boost transplant activity in the state.

Question: Wonderful. These are indeed very good results. Can you please tell us more about Stem Cell Transplant?
Answer: Sure. We can start series with demystifying transplant – what it means, indications, results and more. And let us spread Hope….
Dr. Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 98243 12144, 98988 31496
Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad.
Shyam Hem-Onc Clinic. 402 Galaxy, Near Nehrunagar Circle, Ahmedabad.