Stem Cell Procedure Successfully Treats Amyloidosis Patients Over Age 65

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
August 23rd, 2006

Contact: Kristen Perfetuo, 617-638-8491 |

(Boston) – Researchers from the Stem Cell Transplant Program and the Amyloid Treatment and Research Program at Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) found that blood stem cell transplantation and high-dose chemotherapy can help treat select patients over age 65 diagnosed with primary amyloid light chain (AL) Amyloidosis.

The findings, which appear prepublished in the First Edition of Blood and can be viewed on Blood Online at, helped convince The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve coverage for older patients diagnosed with the rare blood disorder.

AL amyloidosis occurs when plasma cells in bone marrow produce proteins that misfold and deposit in tissues, leading to organ failure and death. Between 1200 and 3200 new cases are reported each year in the United States, although researchers believe the disease is highly underdiagnosed.

According to lead researcher, David Seldin, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine and Microbiology at Boston University School of Medicine, retrieving stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow or blood, storing the cells, and then transplanting them back into the patient following high-dose chemotherapy is used to treat various cancers. This procedure has been shown to safely treat patients under age 65 with AL amyloidosis.

To determine whether this treatment could be applied to older patients, BUMC researchers analyzed the outcomes of sixty-five AL amyloidosis patients over age 65 who underwent the procedure.

“We found the rate of serious complications was no different among the older and younger patients,” said Seldin. “In fact, this treatment produces the highest reported rates of remission for patients diagnosed with AL amyloidosis. Patients showed improvements in both organ function and quality of life.”

Based on these findings, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last year that it would expand coverage for older patients diagnosed with the rare disease. Prior to this reconsideration, the stem cell procedure was not covered for beneficiaries age 64 and older.

“Older patients should not be excluded from this potentially life-saving therapy,” said Seldin.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, the Gerry Foundation, the Young Family Amyloid Research Fund, the Sue Sellors Finley Cardiac Amyloid Research Fund, and the Amyloid Research Fund at Boston University.

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