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New Hope for Austin Cancer Patients in Need of Bone Marrow Transplants

Publication: KEYE-TV (CBS), Austin
12/01/2016

An advanced type of Bone Marrow Transplant is available for the first time in Austin.

Patient Ryan Smith told CBS Austin he is thankful for "everything". The father of three young daughters and husband to Jennifer, says beating cancer brought his already close family even closer.

Smith says family support helped him heal from cancer diagnosis to becoming among the first patients to undergo an Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant in Austin.

"It's part of our story now," said Jennifer Smith.

St. David's cameras recorded the moment Ryan received the life-saving treatment. The Texas Transplant Institute at the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center is located at St. David's South Austin Medical Center. Doctors have performed bone marrow transplants using the patient's own stem cells for years. But an Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant uses a donor's stem cells.

"An easy way to think about it, is their bone marrow isn't working well and we need to get rid of those cells that aren't working well and replace them with someone else's," said Dr. Aravind Ramakrishnan, a Bone Marrow Transplant physician at St. David's South.

Dr. Ramakrishnan performed Smith's transplant.

Doctors use the donor's immune system to get rid of the cancer. It's complex and until now, would require local cancer patients to relocate hours away for treatment in other Texas cities.

"Any trauma we go through what do we want? We want a hug. We want our loved ones," said Dr. Larry Tokaz, Medicial Oncologist at Texas Oncology & Medical Director of the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center at St. David's South Austin Medical Center.

"That has made all the difference in our outcome I think," said Jennifer Smith.

The Smith family didn't have to move and it gave Ryan the ability to focus on recovery. Months later, he didn't just survive, he is thriving.

"That's what keeps me going and tells me we're doing something right," said Dr. Ramakrishnan.

Click here to watch the full story.

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