The evolving role of blood and marrow transplantation for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
With over 4 decades of seminal contributions to the development and application of BMT, Dr. Thomas stresses the importance of collaboration between rheumatologists and transplant clinicians in developing this evolving area of treatment. While the debate concerning the value of TBI in the conditioning regimen and the use of autologous or allogeneic stem cells will continue, he states there is simply no other way to answer these questions than to begin well designed clinical studies. As pointed out by Dr. Hahn, unexpected post-transplant complications may arise in patients with SSc and SLE and possibly require modifications to the transplant procedure similar to the experience in patients with other specific diseases. Other difficulties may be encountered, including restricted funding of the transplant procedure by insurance carriers. The emergence of managed care contracts and payer limitations in the United States described by Dr. Appelbaum could hinder the development of innovative, curative therapies. As initial clinical data are being collected, it is vital to actively support patient referral and participation in clinical studies that will ultimately establish the indications, risks, costs, and benefits of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for autoimmune disease.
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