Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Opens at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia

Unit specializes in cutting-edge treatments for blood cancers and autoimmune diseases

Apr 18, 2014


NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center has opened the Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, a state-of-the-art facility for comprehensive bone marrow transplant (BMT) care. The new unit features 18 inpatient rooms, a high-tech nurses station for individual patient monitoring, and a specialized airflow system to help protect patients with weakened immune systems. The unit is supported by a $20 million gift from Herbert and Florence Irving, who have greatly advanced cancer care in the United States by giving more than $200 million to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center over the past 30 years.

The Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit was designed to deliver highly effective, patient-centered care for BMT recipients and advance research to make BMT a safe and viable lifesaving therapy for a wide range of patients. Bone marrow—the body's factory for making all types of blood cells—can be affected by benign blood disorders, such as severe aplastic anemia and sickle cell anemia, malignant blood disorders, such as acute leukemias, lymphoma, and myeloma. BMT replaces damaged or diseased bone marrow with healthy donor cells and—because of the ability of the donor immune cells to attack the blood cancer cells—it is also a potent form of immunotherapy. In many cases, the treatment reverses conditions that were once thought to be incurable.

Blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, are among the top 10 newly diagnosed cancers each year for both men and women. BMT has evolved into the standard of care for patients with these blood cancers and a number of other blood disorders, and its use is expected to grow by 20 percent over the next 10 years, according to the National Cancer Advisory Board, the advisory board to the National Cancer Institute.

In addition to its use in blood cancer treatment, BMT and other forms of cellular therapies can be used to custom-tailor a patient's immune system. The pioneering work of Dr. Megan Sykes, director of the Columbia Center for Translational Immunology, has demonstrated that combined BMT and organ transplantation can induce tolerance and allow acceptance of the donor organ without the use of long-term immunosuppressant therapy. NewYork-Presbyterian has the largest solid-organ transplant program in the country, thus the new BMT unit will be at the forefront of efforts to make these novel combined transplant procedures the clinical standard.

The unit is led by leading BMT clinician-scientist Dr. Markus Mapara, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and professor of medicine at CUMC. In addition to his interest in combined bone marrow and solid organ transplantation, Dr. Mapara is aiming to develop new approaches to improve the outcomes of patients undergoing autologous and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation by preventing and/or reducing the treatment-related complications such as graft-versus-host disease, as well as preventing recurrence of the underlying disease.

A particular focus of his research is the ability to perform mismatched transplants in patients who do not have matched donors. Approximately 25 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant have a matching donor in their family, while the remaining patients must be matched with a compatible donor in the national and international registries. The chance of finding a match in these registries is about 70 percent for Caucasians, but lower among ethnic minority patients, who are underrepresented in the donor banks. Partial matches from first-degree relatives, called haploidentical matches, have made BMT possible especially in patients from ethnic minorities who are unable to find a matched unrelated donor.

"Creation of this new BMT unit is a visionary step taken by NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia as it not only expands top-quality treatment options for blood cancer patients, but will also allow extending bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy for other conditions," said Dr. Mapara.

"NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia is in the midst of a revolution in cancer care," said Dr. Gary Schwartz, chief of hematology/oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. "With the opening of the BMT unit, we have taken one more step toward fulfilling our vision of offering the best cancer care in New York, if not the United States. This new state-of-the-art bone marrow transplant facility offers our patients the latest advances in cancer care by providing new therapeutic approaches for the treatment and cure of cancer."

The Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit is the newest component of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and one of the top facilities of its kind in the country. Led by Dr. Stephen Emerson, the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center has seen rapid growth in recent years, with the addition of new facilities such as the Irving Radiation Oncology Center and the recruitment of a number of leading cancer researchers and providers.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive hospitals, with some 2,600 beds. In 2012, the Hospital had nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits, including 12,758 deliveries and 275,592 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 20,154 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at six major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit or

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center encompasses preclinical and clinical research, treatment, prevention, and population-based education efforts in cancer. The Cancer Center was initially funded by the National Cancer Institute in 1972 and became an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in 1979. Cancer Center researchers and physicians are dedicated to understanding the biology of cancer and to applying that knowledge to the design of cancer therapies and prevention strategies that reduce its incidence and progression and improve the quality of life of those affected by cancer. For more information, visit

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