Newswise — The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center has received designation as a Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation Center of Excellence. The designation puts UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center on the MDS Foundation’s list of international sites to which people with blood disorders may go to receive treatment. The designation also gives the UNM Cancer Center access to more clinical trials for blood disorders.

Myelodysplastic syndromes result from failure of the bone marrow to produce blood cells. Bone marrow produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. All travel in the blood and each type of cell performs certain tasks.

According to Cecilia Arana Yi, MD, at the UNM Cancer Center, myelodysplastic syndromes are a set conditions in which the bone marrow does not produce one of more types of blood cells. “It’s a heterogeneous disease,” she says. “This means that patients have different outcomes.”

She says that some people fail to produce one type of blood cell and may need mild treatment. Others, though, fail to produce more than one type of blood cell or develop life-threatening acute leukemia. Treatment for these high-risk conditions includes blood transfusions, says Arana Yi. Blood transfusions can come with unwanted side effects such as increased blood iron levels or liver and heart problems.

The Center of Excellence designation allows the UNM Cancer Center to take part in clinical trials offered by the MDS Foundation. “We’ll get access to protocols that are for cancer centers that are experts in MDS,” says Arana Yi. “We’ll be able to provide patients with better options to improve outcomes: [longer] survival, decrease transfusion dependency, better quality of life.”

The UNM Cancer Center offers clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. It has a team of hematology oncologists who specialize in treating blood cancers and other blood disorders. And, it conducts and publishes research in myelodysplastic syndromes. All were important to achieving the Center of Excellence designation.

About Cecilia Arana Yi, MD

Cecilia Arana Yi, MD, is an Assistant Professor Department of Internal Medicine Division of Hematology/Oncology at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She is a member of the Leukemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma and Stem Cell Transplant Multidisciplinary team and serves as the faculty lead for the MDS Foundation Center of Excellence designation at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Arana Yi holds a doctor of medicine from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru. She completed her residency, with a specialization in Internal Medicine, at State University of New York. She completed a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., and a fellowship in leukemia at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.  She practices at UNM Cancer Center and speaks fluent Spanish.


The Hematology Oncology team at UNM Cancer Center includes Matthew Fero, MD; Ian Rabinowitz, MD; Dulcinea Quintana, MD; Elizabeth McGuire, MD; and Cecilia Arana Yi, MD.


About the MDS Foundation Center of Excellence designation

To be recognized as a Center of Excellence, an institution must have: an established university (or equivalent) program; recognized morphologic expertise in MDS; available cytogenetics and/or molecular genetics; ongoing research, including Institutional Review Board-approved clinical trials; and documentation of peer-reviewed publications in the field. Learn more about the MDS Foundation at


About the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius. Its 125 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 500 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provided cancer care for nearly 60 percent of the adults and children in New Mexico affected by cancer. They treated 11,249 patients in 84,875 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital. These patients came from every county in the State. More than 12 percent of these patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments and 35 percent of patients participated in other clinical research studies, including tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing. The 130 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded almost $60 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects and published 301 high quality publications. Promoting economic development, they filed more than 30 new patents in FY16, and since 2010, have launched 11 new biotechnology start-up companies. Scientists associated with the UNMCCC Cancer Control & Disparities have conducted more than 60 statewide community-based cancer education, prevention, screening, and behavioral intervention studies involving more than 10,000 New Mexicans. Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 230 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery. Learn more at