Heidelberg University Hospital

Professor Anthony D. Ho: Healing through high-level expertise – and with a little help from stem cells

The Department of Haematology, Oncology and Rheumatology at Heidelberg University Hospital is run by one of the world’s finest experts in this field, Professor Anthony D. Ho, who set up and managed blood stem cell transplant centres in Canada and the USA. Patients suffering from oncological diseases of the blood such as lymphoma, leukaemia, soft-tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma can expect the best possible medical care reflecting the latest scientific findings.

Professor Ho’s department is located in an ultra-modern building on the campus of Heidelberg University and it can look back with pride on more than 200 years of history. The department was founded in 1805 as a polyclinic (“a clinic for the town”) and originally provided medical care to the poor of Heidelberg. Today, it is a world-renowned centre specialising in haematology, oncology and rheumatology and treating both German and international patients.

Pioneering work in oncology

In the 1980s the department became one of the first in Germany to open a day clinic offering outpatient chemotherapy. Several others in the region then followed its example. Today, the day clinic has twelve places where patients can receive chemotherapy treatment. Seventy-two beds are available for inpatients, of which eight are fitted with a special air filter, which provides the best possible protection to patients undergoing allogenic bone marrow transplantations.

Over the past few years, the department has recorded annual numbers of 33,000 outpatient visits, 7,200 day clinic treatments and 2,040 inpatient treatments. Professor Ho’s team have so far contributed to around 90 national and international clinical trials, of which 30 were funded by industry partners. Many patients are given the opportunity of participating in a clinical trial conducted by Professor Ho’s department.

Every year, the department’s team of proven specialists treats around 270 new patients suffering from leukaemia, 210 patients with lymphomas and 280 new patients with multiple myeloma.

Stem cell transplantations since 1985

The core expertise of the department lies in cell therapies using bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantations. A unit for stem cell transplantations was set up in the Department of Haematology, Oncology and Rheumatology in 1983. This is where we carried out one of the world’s first successful blood stem cell transplants in 1985. For the past 28 years Heidelberg’s Department of Haematology has made key contributions to medical advances in this field. Today, around 220 autologous and around 110 allogenic transplantations are carried out every year.

Back in 1985 the department pioneered the transplantation of peripheral blood stem cells instead of bone marrow – an example of how the department is willing to break new ground, making continuous advancements both to medical care and to qualitative and ethical aspects.

Special research field for adult stem cells

In May 2010 the German Research Foundation (DFG) set up a new special research centre for stem cell research in Heidelberg, which will receive €9.3 million of funding over a period of four years. Professor Ho is chairman and coordinator of the centre, which has consolidated Heidelberg’s position as one of the leading locations for stem cell research in Germany.

Other distinctions

Professor Peter Dreger, Deputy Director of the Department of Haematology, Oncology and Rheumatology, heads up the stem cell transplantation section. He also coordinates all transplantation studies carried out by the German Studies Group for Chronic Lymphatic Leukaemias (CLL) and chairs the CLL subcommittee of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT).

The German-language Myeloma Multicentre Group (GMMG) is also led by one of the department’s senior consultants, Professor Hartmut Goldschmidt. The GMMG has already carried out five generations of major multicentre studies and currently encompasses 37 German study centres and 72 oncological specialist practices.