Researcher’s Profile

Monica Bhatia, MD

Director, Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program
Body: 

Monica Bhatia, MD specializes in the care of children with noncancerous blood disorders who may benefit from bone marrow transplantation, especially sickle cell anemia. She and her colleagues are working to reduce the toxicity (side effects) and complications of this treatment without compromising its effectiveness, and to make it available to more patients.

The field of pediatric hematology brings with it many intellectual challenges, and bone marrow transplantation in particular is especially dynamic. Dr. Bhatia has the opportunity to provide care for the sickest children, potentially curing their disease. She builds strong relationships with her patients and their families that last for years. It is inspiring for her to see young patients grow up to lead healthy, productive lives.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital has a robust program for bone marrow transplantation for sickle cell anemia - the only cure for this disease. Dr. Bhatia and her team have witnessed remarkable results among children who are cured with bone marrow transplantation and spared from the potentially life-threatening complications of sickle cell disease.

Yet despite the advances made, only 15 percent of patients with sickle cell disease have a matched sibling bone marrow donor. Therefore, Dr. Bhatia and her team conduct research to evaluate a procedure called "CD34-selected stem cell transplantation" to remove T-cells from donor bone marrow for patients without a matched sibling donor. This approach reduces the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a potential complication of bone marrow transplantation in which T-cells from the donor attack the tissue of the recipient. This approach to harnessing stem cells could potentially make bone marrow transplantation a safer, effective option for many patients who are seeking a cure for sickle cell disease.

Dr. Bhatia and her colleagues are currently assessing reduced-intensity transplantation, which uses lower doses of chemotherapy to decrease the risk of side effects and long-term complications without lowering the effectiveness of treatment. She is also interested in looking for ways to further improve the quality of life of patients who have had a bone marrow transplant in addition to fertility preservation.