Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – Leukemia survivor Jeffrey Hoffman owes his life to a complete stranger who altruistically donated bone marrow cells for Mr. Hoffman's successful bone marrow transplant. "It was a very noble thing to do," Mr. Hoffman said.

On September 10, 2017, Mr. Hoffman (left) met his donor, Zachary Gold (right), for the first time, during Loyola Medicine's Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration of Survivorship. About 400 patients, family members, caregivers, donors, doctors and nurses attended the annual event at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

Mr. Gold, 25, of San Diego, registered to become a bone marrow donor in honor of his uncle, who underwent a bone marrow transplant. When he was told he matched a patient who needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Mr. Gold immediately agreed to donate. After marrow cells were removed from Mr. Gold's pelvis, he spent the night at a local hospital and was sore for a few days

"It was a mild discomfort," he said. "I definitely would do it again."   Mr. Hoffman, 65, of Naperville, Illinois, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a fast-growing cancer of white blood cells. He underwent high-dose chemotherapy and whole-body radiation to kill the cancer cells. While wiping out the cancer, the treatments also killed Mr. Hoffman's immune system cells. He received an infusion of Mr. Gold's bone marrow cells, which developed into healthy new immune system cells.

“Despite all the technology we deploy, we still rely on the good intentions of donors,” said Patrick Stiff, MD, director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. Dr. Stiff said he continually is amazed that donors such as Mr. Gold “are willing to go through a potentially painful procedure to save the life of someone they have never even met.”

Loyola Medicine oncologist and transplant physician Scott Smith, MD, PhD, performed Mr. Hoffman's bone marrow transplant one year ago. "Mr. Hoffman is in complete remission and his prognosis is excellent," Dr. Smith said. Loyola has one of the largest unrelated donor transplant programs in the world focusing on umbilical cord blood as an alternative for donors without matched related or unrelated donors. Loyola physicians have performed more than 3,000 stem cell transplants, including about 200 umbilical cord blood transplants.

The team is also investigating the novel CAR-T cells for the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma. Loyola receives referrals from throughout the Midwest, including other academic medical centers in Chicago. Loyola is among the first centers to use ex vivo expanded umbilical cord stem cells for the treatment of certain adult cancers.