Progress In Cell Transplants

A month ago, leukemia patient Rodd Ganzer was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

"I was resistant to chemotherapy, which means they had to act now," Ganzer told CBS News Correspondent John Roberts.

However, like the majority of patients who need bone marrow transplants, doctors couldn't find a suitable donor. Seeking an alternative, Ganzer agreed to become the first patient at Yale Cancer Center to try the revolutionary new procedure which would allow his father -- a partial, but not perfect, match -- to donate marrow.

Ganzer knew the procedure could have failed. Miraculously, he says, it worked.

In the past, if bone marrow wasn't a perfect match, either the patient would reject it, or the marrow -- which acts as a new immune system -- would reject the patient.

In the new process, donors are given drugs that stimulate bone marrow cells to flow into the bloodstream. A special machine collects those cells, but filters out elements of the bone marrow that trigger rejection.

A study to be released in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine shows that in Italy and Israel, where the procedure was pioneered, 28 percent of patients who would have died were saved.

"This is the most exciting development for me in my career in bone marrow transplantation because it extends transplant to so many more patients," says Dr. Joseph McGuirk of Yale University Medical Center.

Robert Pazzulo is one such patient. He searched the world over and couldn't find a suitable donor. On Monday, he received the news that the transplant from his partially-matched father is working.

"Day 11, and we do have cells, we have new cells growing," Pazzulo says. "Very exciting."

The process is so new that it's only available in a handful of medical centers worldwide. However, the new research suggests that it's a breakthrough in bone marrow transplantation, and one that could save the lives of tens of thousands of children and adults in the United States every year.

Reported By John Roberts