New cancer treatment program keeps Windsor patients close to home

A new cancer treatment program is coming to Windsor Regional Hospital, and it should cut down on travel for patients.
Dr. Caroline Hamm says recovery time after an autologous transplant is 13 days long and now, patients will get to recover at home with family. (Joana Draghici/CBC)

A new cancer treatment program at Windsor Regional Hospital is expected to get patients treatment sooner, while cutting down on travel time.

Until now, patients spent weeks in London or Hamilton hospitals recovering from autologous transplantation, a procedure that reintroduces their own healthy bone marrow or stem cells to help regenerate cells destroyed by high-dose chemotherapy or radiation.

Under the new program, patients will still be expected to travel for initial treatment, but they will have two-day visits instead of two or three weeks.

"We're going to be able to do that now, instead of sending our patients away for a month," said Dr. Caroline Hamm, medical oncologist with the Windsor Regional cancer program. "Those patients will be able to come back here, they'll be able to recover here in the inpatient unit."

Christine Dean underwent autologous transplantation in 2013.

Christine Dean couldn't hold back the tears when she learned the transplant treatment would be available in Windsor. She underwent the procedure in 2013.

"Emotionally, I was petrified. It was a very scary thing," she said, describing effects of the treatment. "You're so weak, you can't even walk three feet."

Being able to stay and heal in Windsor, close to her children, would have improved the experience dramatically, she told reporters.

Reduced wait times

Travel times for patients and their families have been a challenge, but getting access to hospitals in London and Hamilton is increasingly difficult, Hamm explained.

"Because there has been a backlog of transplants in Ontario, our patients have been waiting longer to get into transplant and it's just been harder to find a transplant site that will take them," she said.

The stem cell transplant generally occurs one to three days after a patient's last chemotherapy dose or any time after their last radiation dose, as the case may be.

This past year, 21 Windsor-Essex residents had autologous stem cell transplantation in either London or Hamilton. Their average length of stay, post-transplantation, is approximately 13 days, according to the hospital.


  • A previous version of this story stated autologous transplantation will be performed at Windsor Regional Hospital. In fact, that procedure will still take place in London. The recovery will happen in Windsor.
    Mar 08, 2016 2:42 PM ET