Providing Hope and Healing Close to Home

You can be a part of developing a much needed Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital and help keep kids close to home for necessary and leading-edge treatments.

You can be a part of developing a much needed Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital and help keep kids close to home for necessary and leading-edge treatments.

“I will miss my sisters, my friends and my doctor and nurses while I’m away because they know me. I know they want what’s best for me, but it will be hard to be away,” says Ethan Wright, a patient who had to temporarily relocate to St. Petersburg to receive treatment that wasn’t available at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

After battling cancer at Arnold Palmer Hospital for more than a year, Ethan was in remission from Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone tumor. Unfortunately, as a result of the treatment necessary to initially cure him, he developed leukemia. Therapy-related leukemias are very difficult to treat. Ethan’s only treatment option was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Despite our comprehensive oncology care, Arnold Palmer Hospital does not yet have the Bone Marrow Transplant Program that Ethan needed to give him the best possible outcome.

This is the reality for many families with children fighting cancer and other blood disorders. Medicine continues to advance and stem cell transplants and other cellular therapies have become the treatment of choice for an increasing number of children with relapsed and high-risk cancers and other disorders of the blood or immune system. In addition, we are reaching the limit of toxicity that children’s bodies can handle with traditional cancer treatments.

A stem cell transplant provides a new immune system after high doses of chemotherapy or radiation are given to treat the cancer or to make room for healthy stem cells. With our current therapies, many children who are cured of cancer experience lifelong side effects stemming from chemotherapy. The field is moving toward not only standard stem cell transplants, but toward manipulating the immune system to be better and smarter at fighting cancer. Instead of relying as heavily on drugs that destroy cells blindly, researchers are now using the immune system to target specific cells they want to destroy, while protecting healthy tissues. By doing so, we can provide hope to children while also protecting their quality of life.

“A stem cell transplant is the only hope of cure for many children with diseases ranging from cancer, to immune deficiencies, to neurodegenerative diseases, to sickle cell disease and other blood disorders. It is a very intense process and during this time, children are extremely fragile medically,” says Dr. Susan Staba Kelly. “To have to go through such a process far from home, away from siblings and family, friends, and the health care team you know and trust, are a huge burden on these children and families. It takes away what little comfort they have at such a crucial point in their treatment. We owe it to the children of Central Florida to be able to stay close to home for transplant, and to be able to provide the newest therapies with the best chance of cure right here.”

A transplant and cellular therapy program is a critical component in order to provide a full continuum of care to Central Florida’s young cancer patients and to patients with other life-threatening diseases of the blood and immune systems. Our vision is to develop a Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital to provide young patients the care they need right here at home. Susan Staba Kelly, MD joined our team as the lead physician and brings her expertise as a leader in the field of stem cell transplant and cellular therapies.

To develop such a program is challenging and costly. These children require very skilled care, and a specialized team is required to provide the very best outcomes. To care for such patients we must construct specially designed patient rooms, to safeguard weakened immune systems and provide an experience that is as comfortable as possible during extensive hospital stays. The program will require a new lab complete with the latest technology to process stem cells. In addition, the process of accreditation requires significant financial contributions. Philanthropic support is crucial during both the initial stages of the development and throughout the operation of the program into the future.

You can play a key part in ensuring children battling cancer or other life-threatening diseases can stay close to home to receive the best, most comprehensive care by supporting the development of a Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital.

If you’d like to be a part of bringing hope and healing to children like Ethan, or would like to learn more about this critical program, please contact Zach Kallenbach at 407.841.5194 or [email protected]