Dr. Max Coppes discusses the latest discoveries in chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and stem cell research.
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Chemotherapy/Bone Marrow Latest Discoveries There is a lot of very interesting things happening in bone marrow transplant stem cell research. In the old days, the reason why we did the bone marrow transplants was, if you give chemotherapy to patients, at some point, you can actually kill a patient with chemotherapy. I mean, if you give enough toxic drugs, you can actually shut down their system and you can actually cause the death of a patient. What we found out is, if you give more drugs, you kill more cancer cells. If you give too much drug, that's not good for the patient. What we discovered is we can give a lot of drugs, put the patient in a lethal condition, but the rescue the patients with the bone marrow. So, if I've got a cancer, I get lethal doses of chemotherapy. The lethal doses is caused by the fact that it kills my bone marrow. But a day later, after I've had all the chemotherapy, after my body is washed clean, I get your bone marrow that's not been affected. Your bone marrow goes to the bone marrow site, starts producing and I do well. So in the old days we thought that the most important reason for high cures was our ability to deliver very high doses of chemotherapy and rescue the patients. That's been the philosophy for many years. What we now have discovered, I would say in the last 5-10 years, 5 years, is that the reason why children and adults are cured is not only because we're able to give high dose of chemotherapy, but because your bone marrow in my body looks around and says, hey, this is not my body; looks at my cancer and says, hey, that's not my cancer. So the bone marrows of donors have a graft versus cancer. So the treatment is also because your immune system helps clear my disease. That's an area that we start to recognize now. So I would say that in the last five years, there is more emphasis at how can you enhance that. We just recruited a new Head of our Bone Marrow Transplant Unit from the National Cancer Institute. His area of research -- I mean, he's a very gifted man. His area of research is specifically in manipulating the immune system. So what he actually is experimenting on is, giving less chemotherapy but trying to cause more immune reaction after the transplant. That is a very exciting area of research that is ongoing in this institution.