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Frank Cerra being interviewed by two reporters.

Reporters interviewing U physician and senior vice president Frank Cerra during the opening of the blood and marrow transplant clinic in India.

University physicians join with doctors in India

By Molly Portz

From eNews, Nov. 9, 2006

The internationally recognized blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) program at the University of Minnesota has an additional address--Manipal Hospital in Bangalore, India. Led by Daniel Weisdorf, U professor of medicine and chair of the adult BMT program, this research and clinical care partnership with Manipal is the first of its kind for the University's physician practice plan, University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP).

Frank Cerra, senior vice president for health sciences, and Jonathan Ravdin, chairman of the department of medicine, were present last week for the ceremonial opening of the BMT program at Manipal Hospital. The partnership aims to increase scientific collaboration and training opportunities for students and physicians from Minnesota and India and provide state-of-the-art cancer care for patients in Bangalore.

To establish the BMT clinic, UMP provided guidance in transplant protocol development and training for the Bangalore physicians in Minnesota and for the nursing staff onsite in Bangalore. Additionally, Weisdorf has a regular teleconference meeting with the Manipal BMT doctors.

"This is a great opportunity for global collaboration at a very high level," says Weisdorf. "We're pleased to have our partners at Manipal join in providing high quality transplantation therapy for their patients." The international collaboration is apropos as it comes at a time when the University of Minnesota is transforming itself into one of the top three public research universities in the world.

Manipal Hospital has performed ten blood and marrow transplants since the beginning of 2006. It is only one of 12 centers throughout India with this specialty. Doctors Amit Rauthan and Ashish Dixit lead the program. Both spent time training with the BMT faculty in Minnesota.

Amit Rauthan, Poonam Patil and Ashish Dixit
BMT doctor Amit Rauthan (left) joins Poonam Patil, head of oncology, and Ashish Dixit, another BMT doctor in their new clinic.

Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue that fills the insides of the bones. Most blood cells, including red blood cells, platelets and some white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and then released into the bloodstream as they mature. When bone marrow is damaged, a person's ability to fend off infections and disease is impaired. A blood or marrow transplant, which transfers blood-forming stem cells into a patient (intravenously or similar to a blood transfusion) replaces defective or missing marrow or is used to "rescue" a patient after high dose chemotherapy or radiation.

To date, the Manipal clinic is performing only autologus transplants, which uses a patient's own cells, or perfectly matched sibling donors. There is a shortage of bone marrow donors in India, which creates challenges for the clinic. But hospitals and the government are trying to increase bone marrow collection in India as well as umbilical cord blood collection as a possible source for transplants.

For more information about blood and marrow transplantation or donation, read BMT FAQ. To learn more about the U's Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, visit the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.