Father of Bone Marrow Transplant, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, Dies at 92

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, a pioneer of bone marrow transplants, passed away this weekend at the age of 92.

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas in his lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash.

Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is one of the most significant discoveries ever made in the field of cancer treatment, but at one time it was considered “a frightening last resort.”  Many physicians in the field advised Dr. Thomas to give up because “they felt this couldn’t ever be done.”

But thank goodness he didn’t.

Dr. Thomas persevered and more than 50 years later, his discovery has saved thousands of lives all over the world, including more than 4,600 right here at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

Now, blood and marrow transplants are among the most effective treatments for certain hematologic and lymphatic cancers and can even cure some inherited forms of anemia, like sickle-cell disease.

The Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Baylor Sammons Cancer Center is one of the largest BMT transplant centers in the US, one of only eight in the nation, and the only one in Texas that offers all four components of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) — donation, collection, apheresis and transplant.

You can read more about Dr. Thomas’ fascinating life and research in this article from the New York Times.

Currently, about 70 percent of patients searching for a marrow or blood stem cell transplant donor do not find a suitable match within their family and request the services of the BE THE MATCH Registry.

Even with a registry of more than seven million, many patients cannot find a match. Find out how you can help save a life by signing up for the Registry.

And don’t forget to tune in to the premiere of Baylor’s three-part documentary series, Dallas Hope, Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 pm CST to see the story of 25-year-old, Cherysse Daniels, who needs a stem cell transplant to survive acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Photo Credit: Susie Fitzhugh, The New York Times Company

This blog post was contributed by Ashley Howland, social media manager, Baylor Health Care System and editor of Sammons Says.

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  • Alan Miller

    It would be hard to calculate the number of lives that Dr. Thomas’s perserverance and contributions have touched.  Not just the patients who have benefitted from this life saving treatment, but their family and friends as well as those who benefitted from the contributions that the survivors went on to make during their lives.  As I physician who has specialized in bone marrow transplantation, I too have benefitted with a rich and rewarding career where I have the chance to help others survive and reach their goals and aspirations.  Thanks Dr. Thomas, we will miss you.  Alan M. Miller MD, PhD, Medical Director Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.