Prize to Weizmann Institute professor for landmark work in stem cell transplantation

Rehovot, Israel--December 16, 2002-- Prof. Yair Reisner of the Institute's Immunology Department was awarded the Daniele Chianelli Prize yesterday, commemorating his work of over 20 years on incompatible stem cell transplantation. Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is a crucial part of the therapeutic strategy aimed at saving the lives of people with leukemia, malignant lymphoma, multiple myeloma and congenital blood disorders, such as halassemia or severe immune deficiencies.

Reisner's research, conducted in collaboration with a team led by Prof. Massimo Martelli of Italy's Perugia University has revolutionized transplantation therapy, enabling the transplant of partially matched stem cells in leukemia patients. Until recently, stem cell transplantations could only succeed if a full genetic match existed between the donor and recipient. Patients having no donor among their siblings had to search the general population, but for roughly half of them a matched donor was found too late or not at all.

The new approach by Reisner and Martelli, known as incompatible or haploidentical stem cell transplant requires that only three of six immunological markers be matched. Such a match is always present between parents and children, and there is a 75% chance of finding it among siblings. If the search includes the extended family, more than 95% of patients can find a donor. The achievements of the Perugia team and Prof. Reisner have aroused great interest in the scientific community. The researchers have made numerous presentations at international conferences and workshops and have published in leading scientific journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Blood and Immunology Today. Nearly 150 patients throughout Europe have been treated using this approach, yielding significant success rates. The transplant procedure is well tolerated even in patients that are at high risk due to toxicity, advanced age, and disease stage (at lea

Contact: Jeffrey J. Sussman
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

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