Saint Louis University

ST. LOUIS - On Monday, representatives from Saint Louis University Hospital will formally open the region’s first comprehensive outpatient bone marrow transplant center, allowing some cancer patients the ability to return home during treatment rather than face a lengthy inpatient hospital stay.

Friedrich G. Schuening, M.D. will lead the new center.

The Center for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, located within the Saint Louis University Cancer Center on the main hospital’s campus, will be led by Friedrich G. Schuening, M.D., director of the division of hematology and oncology at the Saint Louis University Cancer Center.

(Schuening himself currently is battling leukemia and could possibly be the center’s first patient. Read his story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Bone marrow transplantation is an intensive treatment modality for patients diagnosed with cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. In the procedure, medical oncologists “transplant” cells – either from the patient prior to treatment (autologous) or from a donor (allogeneic ) -- into the patient’s bloodstream to rebuild their system after significant chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The only option for patients in St. Louis prior to this new center was for patients to stay in a hospital’s bone marrow transplant unit for several weeks. At Saint Louis University Hospital, appropriate patients will be treated during the day at the new 16-room outpatient center and go home in the evening. For those patients who live outside a 30-minute driving distance from the hospital, Saint Louis University Hospital’s Auxiliary House will provide a closer option.

“Patients prefer to stay in the comforts of their home and the new outpatient bone marrow transplant center provides patients the comfort of home during an extremely difficult time in their lives,” said Schuening, who also is professor of internal medicine at SLU. “Bone marrow transplantation has revolutionized the treatment of these blood cancer diseases and performing them on an outpatient basis does not affect survival rates.”

In fact, studies in the journals Nature and the Journal of Clinical Oncology found no difference in clinical complications for patients treated in an outpatient setting as compared to those treated exclusively in an inpatient setting.

The outpatient center will compliment Saint Louis University Hospital’s inpatient bone marrow transplant program, which has grown significantly under Schuening. He developed a similar outpatient program at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center prior to joining SLUCare in 2011. In addition, he received subspecialty training in hematology and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and subsequently was a faculty member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where the first bone marrow transplants in the United States were performed in the late 1960s.

“We have a very complex and talented team which includes nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, counselors and many others who make the patient experience seamless and successful,” Schuening said. “We are patient and family focused and can address all of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of care.”

One of the goals for the program is to increase patient access to a quality bone marrow transplant program. SLU Hospital works closely with oncology groups throughout the Midwest to enhance the awareness of new treatments and care options that often increase positive outcomes for cancer patients who may live in rural areas.

Jason Merrill, Public Relations Manager at Saint Louis University Hospital