Viruses Treatment Articles

Geisinger Medical Center Becomes Region's Only Bone Marrow Collection Site

May 01, 2017

Geisinger Medical Center (GMC) was recently designated a National Marrow Donation Program (NMDP) collection site, becoming the only site in the region to collect bone marrow or blood stem cells from willing donors.

"It is very exciting and a major achievement to be designated a National Marrow Donation Program collection site," said Edward Gorak, D.O., Medical Oncologist/Hematologist and Co-Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at GMC. "Willing bone marrow donors will no longer have to travel long distances to reach a collection site, and we are hopeful that as donating becomes more accessible, more individuals will be willing to donate."

A bone marrow transplant occurs when a healthy donor is matched with a sick patient, who will then be infused with the donor's healthy marrow or blood stem cells. Transplants can often be a cure for leukemia, blood cancers or other marrow-related diseases. For some patients, a bone marrow transplant is their only hope for survival, Dr. Gorak said.

When a patient is in need of a bone marrow transplant, their physician will search for matching donors through the NMDP's "Be the Match Registry," a database containing information about willing donors. Donors who are "a match" for a patient are contacted and, if they choose to donate, can have their bone marrow or blood stem cells collected at a site convenient for them, even if the patient to receive the donation is thousands of miles away.

"Becoming a collection center means that individuals will be able to donate at GMC and help patients throughout the world," Dr. Gorak said.

While there are two procedures that can benefit patients - a bone marrow transfusion and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) transplant - GMC will only collect PBSCs from donors via a non-surgical procedure that is similar to a platelet donation. PBSC transplants are easier and less painful for a donor and can be just as effective for a patient, Dr. Gorak said.

PBSC donors are required to inject a bone marrow-stimulating medicine such as filgrastim for several days prior to their PBSC donation to increase the amount of blood stem cells available for extraction, according to Dr. Gorak. Donations can take several hours, and side effects after donation are usually minimal.

"The risks of donating blood stem cells are relatively low," Dr. Gorak said. "Donating is truly an altruistic act, and the impact a donor makes goes far beyond the time they spend preparing for the donation or stay in the hospital."

On April 13, GMC will host a "Be the Match" donor drive, where interested individuals can join the NMDP's "Be the Match Registry." Geisinger will cover all costs associated with joining the registry for those who attend the drive. Geisinger will also cover all costs for individuals who register online at join.marrow/PA100

Geisinger Health System