Omar Aljitawi, MD, of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, has been researching a method to shorten the duration of neutropenia following stem cell transplantation, a standard-of-care procedure which accompanies high-dose chemotherapy for treatment of multiple blood cancers.

Neutropenia invariably occurs following high-dose chemotherapy and resolves when the newly infused hematopoietic stem cells home to the bone marrow and engraft, forming new blood cells from the hematopoietic stem cells. The condition is characterized by an abnormally low level of neutrophils, a type of infection-fighting white blood cell. Because it weakens the immune system, prolonged neutropenia can lead to dangerous health complications, and, in severe cases, death.

009__M3A2784_LowResolutionHaving previously experimented with hyperbaric oxygen as a modality to improve hematopoietic stem cell engraftment  in transplantation mouse models, Aljitawi has since utilized funding from a SWOG/Hope Foundation Impact Award to pilot the use of hyperbaric oxygen in a clinical setting to test its potential benefit to cancer patients. One goal of the research aims to understand how increased air pressure and oxygen intake can help speed engraftment after transplantation, thus reducing the duration of neutropenia and improving overall patient health.

Work on this project continues after promising preliminary results. The study team plans to propose a phase-II concept to further understand the potential impact of hyperbaric oxygen on engraftment and on other transplant outcomes such as progression-free survival.

Aljitawi provided an overview of the project at SWOG’s most recent Group Meeting as part of the Translational Medicine Plenary event. View his presentation in its entirety below.


A poster abstract is also viewable at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting Library.