ITALY – Gitmo: Italy one of the top ranked counties in Europe for bone marrow stem cell transplants

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Italy is ranked among the top countries in Europe for the number of bone marrow transplants performed. This is one of the elements that emerged on the first day of the 3rd GITMO conference (Italian group for bone marrow transplants), which began today in Florence.

Italy plays a leading role for bone marrow transplants, said a statement, demonstrated by the fact that our country is one of the top contributors to the number of transplants performed in Europe. The European Bone Marrow Transplant Group (EMBT) collects and stores data regarding transplants performed in various countries, and Italy is ranked 3rd/4th place for the total number of transplants it performs. This is an indication of the important work performed in Italy by GITMO and demonstrates that Italian transplant centers make use of top-level expertise and technology.

This is encouraging data because it opens up possibilities for the future, with important implications for patients suffering from neoplastic diseases, for which stem cells could play a key role in future treatments.

The procedure of stem cell transplants is very invasive for the patient and not all individuals are able to adequately tolerate the procedure, especially older patients. In the past, it was not possible to perform a transplant in an individual over the age of 40, then the age was raised to 50, while today 60 could be an important objective. In the past 10 years, transplant technologies for family and non-family donors have been developed with the use of so-called reduced intensity transplants, meaning a transplant that uses technology to make the procedure tolerable for patients who are not able to undergo the traditional procedure.

Initially, this technique developed slowly, while today many transplant centers have adopted the procedure, which has substantially increased the number of people who are eligible to receive this type of treatment. For some diseases, like acute myeloid leukemia, donor stem cell transplants represent our most promising weapon, and since these diseases are most common in elderly individuals, in cases where the patient is in good condition and they are under 60 years old, it is possible to use this type of treatment.

Future prospects. Today stem cells can be obtained from various sources. While in the past family donors were used, now the use of non-family donors has become more widespread thanks to international donor banks. Furthermore, alternative sources are available, like umbilical cord stem cells, which have been collected in many EU and non-EU countries for about 15 years in special umbilical cord blood banks. They are also present in Italy and this expands the offer and possibility to quickly find a source of stem cells to be used in transplants.

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