he first multiple myeloma patient to undergo Stem Cell Autologous Transplantation Therapy at Winthrop is a success story: he has achieved complete remission.
"The disease is followed by measuring the level of abnormal protein in the blood," explains Jeffrey G. Schneider, MD, Faculty Attending Oncologist-Hematologist with Winthrop's Division of Oncology-Hematology. "We are happy to report its total disappearance from the patient's blood."
"While stem cell autologous therapy is not a cure, the procedure can provide a lengthy remission, compared with the results of conventional chemotherapy."
Harry Staszewski, MD,
Chief, Oncology-Hematology Division
The patient - Henry W. Schmitt, a 55-year-old accountant - underwent two consecutive outpatient stem cell transplantations at Winthrop's Oncology-Hematology Division Suite, 222 Station Plaza North, Mineola. The New York Blood Center supported Winthrop with technological assistance and personnel.
"The unique aspect of this program is the degree to which treatment has been shifted both to the outpatient setting and home," comments Dr. Schneider, who directed, administered, and monitored Mr. Schmitt's therapy.
A Bad Shock - with a Happy Ending
At the onset of his experience, Mr. Schmitt was unaware that he was seriously ill. Troubled by unexplained fatigue, and suspecting that he had contracted Lyme Disease through an insect bite, he visited his primary care physician, Alan Lipp, MD, of Winthrop's Voluntary Medical Staff. Not long afterwards, Mr. Schmitt received an evening telephone call from Dr. Lipp, who soberly informed him that he was, of necessity, referring him to Dr. Jeffrey Schneider for further tests and treatment. There was no room for equivocation.
"I simply could not comprehend what Dr. Lipp was talking about," admits Mr. Schmitt. "I was shocked. My wife, Mary, was equally shocked. I made an appointment with Dr. Schneider, who rendered the diagnosis of multiple myeloma. I knew only that it was some kind of a blood disorder. No one in my family had ever had multiple myeloma. I could not identify any causative factor."
Through informed discussions with Dr. Schneider, bolstered with his own personal research on the Internet, Mr. Schmitt learned that multiple myeloma is treatable. "After Dr. Schneider outlined the plan of treatment, I felt hopeful. I had, and continue to have, the fullest confidence in my physicians and in Winthrop's program."
Beginning with three 28-day courses of standard outpatient chemotherapy, Mr. Schmitt spent the first three months receiving two chemotherapy drugs, to which he responded satisfactorily. "The first three treatments enabled us to get the disease under control, so that we could go on to the stem cell transplantation," explains Dr. Schneider. At that point, Mr. Schmitt was able to return to work.
Within a few weeks, Mr. Schmitt supported the next step of his therapy by self-injecting growth factors at home - to aid in the stimulation of stem cells in the blood stream, which would be harvested through a collection procedure known as leukapheresis.
Once his stem cells were collected and frozen, he returned home to rest and recover, prior to beginning "megadose" chemotherapy - 20 times the standard dose - as an
As a second stem cell transplant is the recommended protocol, Mr. Schmitt underwent the procedure a second time, about six weeks later.
Stem cell autologous therapy, followed with megadose chemotherapy, is far from easy, even when the patient is as courageous and determined as Mr. Schmitt. After each treatment, he suffered weakness, dehydration, and mucositis, which occasioned admission to Winthrop's dedicated oncology unit - for observation, infection control, and comfort measures. Nonetheless, he knew the side effects, though enormously unpleasant, were only temporary - which helped him to tolerate the difficult aftermath of both treatments.
Today, Mr. Schmitt is enjoying a complete remission, and will be followed the rest of his life through blood and bone marrow tests.
"My husband is the bravest person I have ever met," Mary Schmitt declares. The couple has urged Winthrop to tell their story to the public. "Everyone should know about stem cell autologous transplantation therapy at Winthrop, in case they know someone who could be helped," the Schmitts add.
For further information, contact Winthrop's Oncology-Hematology Division at 516-663-2310.