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University of Iowa News Release

 

Oct. 31, 2008

Stem cell donor, recipient to meet at Celebrating Life Reunion

A patient from Iowa and the stem cell donor from Arizona who saved her life will meet for the first time at the 11th annual Celebrating Life Reunion hosted by the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, to be held from 1 to 5 p.m. today (Friday, Oct. 31), at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

Jane Harman and her husband, Gary, of Indianola, Iowa have two children. Jane was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2006. She was devastated to learn that no one in her family shared her tissue type. An urgent search began for a matched donor from a pool of healthy volunteers registered worldwide. Little did Harman know that just a few months before she became ill, an "angel" had joined the registry. That "angel" would go on to be Harman's perfect match and donate stem cells to her in September 2007.

In September 2005, Chelsea Kleinmeyer of Whiteriver, Ariz. joined the Iowa Marrow Donor Program when the mother of a friend needed a transplant. She didn't hesitate to have more testing done when she was called in August 2007 and told she may match a patient in need. On Sept. 28, 2007 Kleinmeyer donated her stem cells to someone she didn't know in Iowa.

Today, Jane Harman and her family will meet and thank Chelsea Kleinmeyer for the first time.

Specialists at UI Hospitals and Clinics performed the first marrow transplant there in 1980. Since then, more than 1,700 people have received blood and marrow transplants there. The unit currently transplants more than 75 people each year.

Roger Gingrich, M.D., Ph.D., directs the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Programs and serves as associate director for clinical affairs in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

"As a transplant team, our goal is to restore people back to their lives," Gingrich said. "When patients come and stay with us for their transplants, we see them at their most vulnerable. At our Celebrating Life Reunion, we meet again in the arena of renewed life."

Colleen Reardon Chapleau, director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, added, "This event is a true celebration of the spirit. We share stories, triumphs and challenges. What stands out each year is the message of hope embodied in the courageous people who have fought cancer and who now give back to help others."

People in need of a blood stem cell transplant are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as leukemia, lymphoma or aplastic anemia. A blood stem cell transplant involves using high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation to destroy the patient's diseased marrow and then giving the patient healthy blood stem cells as a replacement. In an autologous transplant, the patient's own blood stem cells are harvested, possibly treated, and then transplanted. In an allogenic transplant, another person donates the healthy marrow or blood stem cells.

Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diseases treatable by a blood stem cell transplant. However, of the patients needing to receive healthy blood stem cells from someone else, only 30 percent have a suitable family match, leaving the remaining 70 percent to rely on unrelated donors.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The welcome and opening remarks will occur at 2 p.m. The meeting between Harman and Kleinmeyer will occur at about 3 p.m. For assistance in covering this event, please contact Tom Moore at 319-356-3945.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Marketing and Communications, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu.