The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently issued a decision to expand Medicare coverage for allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HCT) for eligible Medicare patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), based on decades-long research led by investigators at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Cancer Center, in collaboration with investigators in the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN) and advocacy experts at the American Society of Hematology (ASH), American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).

MDS is a group of cancers that affect the body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells. Allogeneic HCT is the only curative therapy for patients with MDS.

“Until now, patients 65 and older with Medicare did not receive coverage for HCT, largely due to limited clinical research demonstrating that transplantations benefited patients in older age brackets (specifically Medicare beneficiaries) in the same way they benefitted younger patients,” said Douglas Rizzo, MD, MS, Senior Scientific Director of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), a research affiliation of MCW and NMDP, and Cancer Service Line Director at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. This challenge was further exacerbated since older adults were, consequently, overlooked as candidates for transplant because they did not have Medicare coverage for the procedure.

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