Escalating his battle against leukemia, Seattle schools Superintendent John Stanford will have a bone-marrow transplant, possibly as soon as next week.
The marrow transplant means that the two rounds of chemotherapy Stanford has undergone since the disease was diagnosed in late March have not eradicated the cancer cells, according to Trevor Neilson, school district spokesman.
"It is not ridding his body of leukemia as quickly as had been hoped," said Neilson.
The transplant will boost Stanford's five-year survival chance to about 35 percent, according to experts. Being scheduled for the procedure also means that his leukemic cells are resistant to the chemotherapy and he has no chance of survival without the transplant.
Working against Stanford will be his age, 59. He has already been subjected to weeks of chemotherapy and the drugs are particularly hard on the internal organs of older patients - the liver, lungs, kidneys and heart. Added to that will be the harsh chemotherapy and antirejection drugs of the bone-marrow transplant.
Stanford will enter the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for preliminary tests Monday, said Neilson.
Vincent Picozzi, Stanford's physician at Virginia Mason Medical Center, was scheduled to formally announce the additional treatment late this afternoon.
Both Stanford's older sisters, Cecile Stanford Williams of Yeadon, Pa., and Carolyn Stanford Adams of Miami, are possible donors of healthy marrow but it hasn't been decided yet which one will make the donation, according to Neilson.
The transplant could take place late next week, he said.
A bone-marrow transplant amounts basically to replacement of the patient's immune system. Chemotherapy and perhaps radiation will be used to destroy Stanford's existing bone marrow, where all blood cells are made, including the immature, ineffective white cells of leukemia.
Marrow from one of Stanford's sisters will then be infused through an intravenous line. If all goes well, the new, healthy marrow will grow, essentially forming the basis of a new immune system.
Major hazards of the the treatment include infections stemming from a suppressed immune system, toxicity from the chemotherapy and incompatibility of the transplanted marrow - called graft versus host disease.
Recently, Stanford has been participating in school-district business via a two-way video system between his Capitol Hill home and the district's administrative center, though this week he's made several in-person visits to the office.
Stanford was disappointed late in May when cancer cells returned to his body only a few weeks after Picozzi said the disease was in remission. That turn of events sent Stanford back to the hospital for more chemotherapy, which Picozzi felt was the first choice prior to trying a marrow transplant.