Transplant Services

Specializing Institutions

Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another with the purpose of replacing a patient’s damaged or absent organ. Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and thymus. Tissue transplants also exist. Some of the most commonly transplanted tissues are bones, tendons, corneas, skin, valves and veins. The kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed closely by the liver and the heart. Not everyone is a good candidate for an organ transplant. Patients with infection, heart disease, drug or alcohol problems are not good organ transplant candidates. Organ transplants have been done in the United States since the 1950s. Today, transplants are more successful than ever. There are currently more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ.

There are many highly skilled transplant surgeons at The South Texas Medical Center. Our partner institutions that specialize in transplants offer advanced transplant services, perform pioneering research and foster a community of transplant survivors, donor families, specialists and social workers to support patients every step of the way. We also host the only living liver transplant facility in Texas. A living donation provides significant benefits to the patient starting with a shorter wait and an improved organ transplantation rate.

Transplant services at the South Texas Medical Center include bone marrow, kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, lung and adult stem cell transplants. Our institutions have exceptional patient outcomes and consistently meet and exceed nation averages. Institutions also offer pediatric transplant programs specializing in kidney and liver transplants. Transplant patients receive life-long care at the South Texas Medical Center.

Transplant Articles

  • Last-resort leukemia treatment produces dramatic remission rate

    By Gene Emery

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ninety percent of people facing death because conventional treatments had failed to destroy their leukemia have responded to an experimental therapy that trains their cells to kill out-of-control blood cells, doctors in Philadelphia report.

    Twenty seven of the 25 children and 5 adults initially responded to the new therapy. Nineteen - including a 9-year-old treated two and a half years ago - have remained cancer-free and 15 of those 19 have not receive any subsequent therapy.

    "We're astonished how well it turned out," senior author Dr. Stephan Grupp of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told Reuters Health. Doctors are often happy if a treatment can improve the remission rate by 3 percent to 5 percent. "In our wildest dreams, we didn't think it would work as well as it did for the patients we've treated so far," Grupp said.

    "It's equally impressive in both the adult and pediatric population," said Dr. Noelle Frey of the University of Pennsylvania, who directed the adult portion of the study.

    "These are patients where the chances of cure are close to zero, if not zero," she said. "This is a therapy that not only gives hope, but is also correlated with tremendous success."

    The treatment results, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, are part of a broader effort to reprogram the cells of cancer patients so they reproduce rapidly and attack the rogue cells responsible for tumors.

    "If this has curative potential - which we don't know yet, but seems to be the case - it's a game changer," said Dr. Michael Sadelain of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, part of a separate team that previously used the technique to produce complete remissions in 14 out of 16 adults who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) of a stage "where nobody would go into complete remission."

    "The good news is, this therapy can work just as well in children as it was reported to do in adults," he told Reuters Health.

    In the Philadelphia study, other treatments - as many as four - had failed in the 30 patients. Conventional therapy typically cures 80 percent to 85 percent of children with ALL and those children "don't need this," said Grupp. "The other 15 percent or so are candidates for this."

    Adults with ALL are tougher to treat, "so 50 percent or more might need this," he said.

    In July, the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the treatment, known as CTL019, a Breakthrough Therapy designation designed to expedite its development for ALL.

    The Philadelphia researchers have also been experimenting with CTL019 for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma,. The remission rates in those tests have been high, but not nearly as high as with ALL, Frey told Reuters Health. Those findings have not been published.

    The ALL treatment involves training disease-fighting blood cells known as T-cells. Once removed from a patient's body, they are programmed to hunt cancer cells that have a telltale protein on their surface. The specially-trained cells are then re-injected into the patient. The re-engineering process currently costs about $25,000.

    Of the initial 30 patients, 27 were in complete remission by the one-month mark, but seven relapsed over a period ranging from 6 weeks to 8.5 months after treatment. Twenty three were alive at the six-month mark. Five of the 23 left the study to receive other treatments, including stem cell transplantation.

    The treatment is not without serious risks. The most common is cytokine release syndrome, where the body appears to react to the mass killing of tumor cells.

    Patients "become tired, achy and nauseous," said Frey. "You can also get low blood pressure and breathing difficulties. Unfortunately, it can be life-threatening. But we have, in most cases, been able to reverse it. Yet in most situations it's very manageable."

    "For our patients who have already relapsed after stem cell transplants, or don't have any options for donors," she said, "this option has provided new hope."

    In eight of the 27 cases where there was a response, cytokine release syndrome was judged to be severe and the patients ended up in intensive care.

    At least part of the technique involved in the Philadelphia study has been licensed to Novartis. Sloan Kettering has teamed up with a start-up company, Juno Therapeutics, which will conduct a multicenter study of adults with ALL, Sadelain said.

    "That's a sea change in the field because, until now, this realm of cell therapy was almost exclusively in the hands of academic centers," he said. "Now you see a whole host of companies moving into this space. Investors have been impressed by these results and will take them far beyond what academic centers will do."

    SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, October 15, 2014.

  • Stem cells from human embryos prove safe, improve vision -study

    By Sharon Begley

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The longest-running trial of stem cells derived from a human embryo found that the cells caused patients none of the problems scientists feared, such as forming tumors, and reversed partial blindness in about half the eyes receiving transplants, researchers reported on Tuesday.

    The results, published in The Lancet, could help re-invigorate the controversial quest to harness stem cells, which have the ability to turn into any of the 200 kinds of human cells, to treat diseases.

    In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine called the work "a major accomplishment."

    After intense excitement among scientists and the public about the promise of stem cells and ethical debates about destroying human embryos to obtain them, the field stumbled when a high-profile trial for spinal cord injury was halted by Geron Corp in 2011 and the interest of other companies waned.

    The small study's main goal was assessing the safety of the transplanted cells. Called retinal pigment epithelial cells, they were created by taking stem cells from a days-old embryo created in a fertility clinic and inducing them to differentiate into the specialized cells.

    The study "provides the first evidence, in humans with any disease, of the long-term safety and possible biologic activity" of cells derived from embryos, said co-author Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, which produced the cells and funded the study.

    Nine patients with Stargardt's disease (which causes macular degeneration in childhood) and nine with dry age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of adult blindness) received implants of the retinal cells in one eye. The other eye served as a control.

    Four eyes developed cataracts and two became inflamed, probably due to the patients' age (median: 77) or the use of immune-supressing transplant drugs.

    The retinal cells, which help keep the eye's rods and cones alive and functional, survived in all 18 patients, most of whose vision improved. In those with macular degeneration, treated eyes saw a median of 14 additional letters on a standard eye chart a year after receiving the cells, with one patient gaining 19 letters. The untreated eyes got worse, overall. The Stargardt's patients had similar results.

    In real-life terms, patients who couldn't see objects under 12 feet (4 meters) tall can now see normal-size adults.

    The vision of one 75-year old rancher who was blind in the treated eye (20/400) improved to 20/40, enough to ride horses again, Lanza said. Others became able to use computers, read watches, go to the mall or travel to the airport alone for the first time in years.

    While calling the results "encouraging," stem cell expert Dusko Ilic of Kings College London, who was not involved in the work, warned that even if the larger clinical trial planned for later this year is also successful, "it will take years before the treatment becomes available."

    SOURCE: The Lancet, online October 14, 2014.

    (Reporting by Sharon Begley; editing by Andrew Hay)