For the last 20 years, Duke Bone Marrow Transplant program patients have been holding annual reunions. The first reunion, held in 1996, was attended by 20 attendees. This year's celebration, held in September, was attended by 400.
Duke Hospital is known worldwide for its innovation in treating blood cancers. Since 1984, doctors at Duke have performed more than 4,500 bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
"It's a great time for celebration, people come back, they have their hair back," said Nelson Chao, MD, MBA, chief of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy. "You can't recognize them anymore, they don't look like patients, they look like normal people."
Duke now performs about 300 bone marrow stem cell transplants every year. The program has expanded to help children, as well as some patients with autoimmune disease and even sickle cell disease.