Backgrounder: Children's Hospital Boston: A Leader in Blood Research
June 6, 2006
Children's Hospital Boston has a long legacy of accomplishment in blood and cancer research. Advances in hematology at Children's include:
- The first successful treatment of Rh disease, in which a fetus's blood is incompatible with its mother's. The mother produces antibodies against her child's blood, damaging the child's red blood cells and causing severe anemia, heart failure and brain damage. Dr. Louis Diamond identified Rh disease in 1932, and in the 1940s developed a transfusion procedure to treat Rh disease in newborns.
- The first remission of acute pediatric leukemia, achieved in 1947 by Dr. Sidney Farber. Farber went on to co-found the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
- The first genetic test for prenatal diagnosis of thalassemia, a serious inherited blood disorder, by Drs. Stuart Orkin and David Nathan in 1978. A similar technique led to the development of prenatal tests for sickle cell anemia in 1982.
- The discovery Dr. Carlo Brugnara and colleagues, in 1993, that the common antifungal drug clotrimazole prevents dehydration in red blood cells, a factor in sickle cell disease. A related compound is now entering phase III clinical trials in adults with sickle cell disease.
Children's Hematology/Oncology program, among the oldest in the country, was founded in the early 1930s by Drs. Louis K. Diamond and Sidney Farber. Diamond also founded one of the first pediatric hematology research centers in the United States and established the Blood Grouping Laboratory (now the Center for Blood Research) in 1942.
Today, Children's Hospital Boston is known around the world for its faculty's pediatric hematology/oncology expertise. Its Division of Hematology/Oncology has over 50 full-time researchers and physicians and the goal of improving the understanding and treatment of all forms of childhood cancer and non-malignant blood disorders. The faculty has more than $30 million per year in research grant support, which exceeds nearly all departments of pediatrics in the U.S. Its comprehensive fellowship program is an educational leader; approximately 40 percent of the Hematology/Oncology Division Chiefs in the U.S. were trained through the program.
Children's has one of the oldest and most active largest pediatric stem cell transplantation units in the country, established in the 1970s. Offered through Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Care, the program performs more than 70 transplants each year for children with blood disorders and cancer. Children receiving stem cell transplants are admitted to the 13-bed stem cell transplantation unit at Children's. Children's is also the pediatric site of the Boston Hemophilia Center, the largest hemophilia program in New England.
Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, nine members of the Institute of Medicine and 11 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is a 347-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit: www.childrenshospital.org/research.
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