History - Activities
In our country Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HCT) was first performed in 1985 and over 250 are now carried out every year. There are transplant units in several hospitals. The 4 major units that perform Allogeneic – stem cells harvested from genetically similar but not identical donors – and Autologous - stem cells harvested from self- HCTs are found at the "EVANGELISMOS" Hospital in Athens, the "PAPANIKOLAOU" Hospital in Thessaloniki and the PATRAS UNIVERSITY GENERAL HOSPITAL in Rio-Patras and the "AGHIA SOPHIA" Children's Hospital in Athens.
The first Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in our country that is solely for children has been in operation at the "Aghia Sophia" Children's Hospital in Athens since 1993. Up until that time, children who were candidates for transplants – those who could - had to resort to medical institutions in Europe and the United States. The psychological cost was incalculable given that the parents were forced to remain in a foreign country in adverse conditions for a long period of time and without knowing if their child would finally be saved.
The financial cost for a transplant in Europe was 40 million drachmas and in the United States 130 million drachmas. The first attempts at creating a Bone Marrow Transplant unit in Greece began in 1985 but were unsuccessful, despite the necessity to treat these children.
Recognizing the great need, the "ELPIDA" Association of Friends of Children with Cancer which was created in 1991, undertook, that very same year, the creation of a Unit which was finished in the next 2 years, turned over to the "Aghia Sophia" Children's Hospital and inducted into the National Health System.
THE UNIT CONSISTS OF A CLINIC, A LABORATORY AND THE OUTPATIENT DEPARTMENTS
(As of October 2010 the Unit will be transferred to the modern facilities of the ELPIDA Associaton’s New Pediatric Oncology Center)
The Clinic is located on the 3rd floor of the “AGHIA SOPHIA” Children’s Hospital and specially constructed to ensure aseptic conditions during hospitalization. The entire clinic provides a positive pressure air environment with filters and with a pneumatic air flow. It consists of 9 beds (in 7 single rooms and 1 double room) for transplant patients, a kitchen and lounge for the parents-escorts, doctors’ offices, nursing station and ancillary facilities.
The children’s rooms are furnished with special attention to the needs of the child-patient and the parent-escort, who remains with the child on a 24 hour basis. The rooms are equipped with television sets, VCRs, computers and toys so that the child’s stay in the Unit is as pleasant as possible.
About 45 Allogeneic and Autologous Blood Stem Cell Transplants are performed in the Unit every year with donors who are relatives with compatible bone marrow tissue (chiefly siblings) and unrelated donors with a compatible tissue type from volunteer bone marrow donor banks outside of Greece. Children between the ages of 4 months to 21 years are treated for neuroblastomas, hematological and genetic diseases.
The transplant procedures performed are: Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT), “Mobilized” Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.
We have performed 520 transplant procedures in 503 children. A small number came from Albania, Yugoslavia, Persia, Jordan, Palestine. The diseases treated were Acute Leukemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), Lymphomas, Neuroblastomas, Childhood Solid tumors, Fibro-cellular tumors, Osteopetrosis, Fanconi Anemia (FA), primary immune deficiencies, Mediterranean Anemia (b-Thalassemia) and others.
Our results have been very satisfactory. As an indication, for the diseases we treat most often, the five-year disease-free survival rate (in other words the patient is in remission) is 55% for Acute Leukemia, 74% for Lymphomas, 39% for Neuroblastomas, 72% for primary immune deficiencies and 95% for Mediterranean Anemia (Beta-Thalassemia).
The laboratory: is fully equipped and carries out all the tests and procedures necessary for the implementation and monitoring of the transplant, such as:
Multiplication and differentiation of Human Embryonic Cells
Red blood cell depletion, CD3/CD19 stem cell graft depletion and CD34+ cell selection for the prevention of Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD).
Scheduled freezing and cryopreservation – at -190°C - of autologous stem cell grafts and umbilical cord blood units.
Monitoring of implantation of bone marrow using molecular biology techniques.
(Chimeric state of the child following transplantation)
Cell cultures of progenitor, hematopoietic mesenchymal stem cells of long or short duration.
The Outpatients clinics also treat patients who do not require an overnight stay in the hospital. Approximately 100 transplant patients each month visit the Outpatients clinics for observation and treatment.Our Unit is a member of the European Blood & Bone Marrow Transplantation Group, works closely with Pediatric Transplantation Unites in many European countries and in the United States of America.