Initially, the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit (BMTU) was housed at Agia Sofia General Children’s Hospital and was directed by paediatrician/haematologist Stelios Grafakos.
The transplant programme was launched in May 1993, following proper preparation and a coordinated effort from all the founding members of the team, which, apart from Mr. Grafakos, included Mrs. Kitra, Mrs. Peristeri and Mr. Gousetis.
The founding team, with support from the ELPIDA Association and Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, who is the Association’s motor force and soul, worked tirelessly, each contributing their knowledge, experience and personal effort to the creation of the Unit, operation of the Unit’s lab, and completion of the transplant programme.
The first purely paediatric BMTU had four beds, but because more children needed bone marrow transplants and precious time was being lost as they waited their turn – time that could mean the difference between life and death – the Association arranged for an increase in the number of beds, to eight, in 1995. But the number was still too low.
The problem was finally solved through the creation of the cutting-edge Children’s Oncology Unit – to which the BMTU was relocated – and there are now 18 beds, providing for immediate hospitalisation of children in need of bone marrow transplants.
The BMTU now operates on the 3rd floor of the Children’s Oncology Unit, together with three Haematology-Oncology Departments – Paediatric Haematology-Oncology Department (TAO), Special Treatments Clinic (KETH), Aglaia Kyriakou Oncology Department (OTAK) – again a donation from the ELPIDA Association to our country, treating children and adolescents up to 18 years of age.
Since 2016, the BMTU has been headed by paediatrician-haematologist Vasiliki Kitra-Rousou.
Since 1993, the Unit has operated as an independent Unit licensed by the Health Ministry.
The Unit’s transplant programme includes autologous and, mainly, allogeneic transplants with donors who are tissue compatible, incompatible relatives, or volunteer tissue-compatible non-relatives from Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide. The stem cell transplants used are mainly from bone marrow, but peripheral blood and umbilical-placental stem cells are also used.
The range of transplants has undergone impressive expansion through the use of alternative donors and tissues. About 2/3 of allogeneic transplants at our unit are from non-related volunteer donors.
Every year, fifty to sixty transplants are performed on children and adolescents with life-threatening neoplastic and genetic haematological disorders, with very good results that are as good as those achieved abroad (Europe, America) and with very low toxicity.
As such, many Greek children and children from other countries – Balkan, African and Middle Eastern countries – with serious, deadly blood disorders are treated and cured in our country, without the costly need to send patients abroad during the current economic crisis.
The terms and conditions that must be met by Units Applying Primary Hematopoietic Cells (allogeneic and autologous), with regard to facilities, equipment, organization and medical and nursing staff, as well as other necessary procedures (ΑDΑ:OPF7465FYO-1P3) are stipulated in article 3 of the Ministerial Decision (Government Gazette 599/16-5-2002) and recently in article 57 of Law 3984/2011, Government Gazette II/384/2019, as follows: