Rikin Shah, MD, is a board-certified pediatric hematologist-oncologist with the Haley Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. He specializes in stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy, providing advanced care for children, teens and young adults with blood disorders and cancer.
Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cell transplantation is also called bone marrow transplantation (BMT). BMT is a treatment for children, teens and young adult with certain types of cancer or other non-cancerous diseases. The goal of BMT is to replace a child’s diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.
Bone marrow is the spongy material in the center of the bones that makes all types of blood cells, including young blood cells called stem cells. In BMT, stem cells are filtered, and then put back into the same child or they are put into another sick child. These stem cells will grow and become new and healthy bone marrow. Transplanted stem cells are called the graft.
Stem cell transplantation may benefit several conditions, a few of which are:
- Cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, brain tumors, or kidney cancer
- Aplastic anemia and inherited bone marrow failure syndrome like Fanconi Anemia, Dyskeratosis Congenita, etc.
- Immune deficiency such as severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, etc.
- Genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, Diamond Blackfan anemia, Hurler syndrome, or adrenoleukodystrophy disorder
Cellular therapy is a form of therapy that uses a patient’s own living cells to target their cancer. BMT is one type of cellular therapy that has become a mainstay of cancer treatment. New forms of cellular therapy, such as CAR-T therapy, are quickly transforming the treatment of relapsed or resistant leukemia, helping a donor’s own blood cells target and fight cancer cells more effectively.
Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR T-cell therapy, is a type of immunotherapy that involves extracting patient’s own T-cells – disease-fighting white blood cells – which are then turbocharged through cellular engineering techniques that reprogram them to target specific cancer cells. The technique essentially transforms the patient’s cells into what scientists call "a living drug."
Historically, treatment for leukemia has been heavily dependent on the use of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the side effects of chemotherapy can be tremendous, as chemotherapy attacks cells both good and bad that are actively growing when the chemotherapy is given. In contrast, CAR-T therapy trains a patient’s own white blood cells to target specific cancer cells, sparing normal, healthy tissue. Imagine an army of immune cells in your blood, trained to search and destroy your cancer cells.
CAR-T therapy is a treatment option for children and young adult with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that does not respond to treatment or has relapsed two or more times.
Dr. Shah’s Training
Dr. Shah earned his medical degree from Smt. N.H.L. Municipal Medical College in Ahmedabad, India, before beginning his postdoctoral training as a pediatric resident at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Amarillo. He then completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City and a fellowship in pediatric stem cell transplantation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
About Dr. Shah
Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology, Dr. Shah also is member of the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT), American Society of Hematology (ASH), Children’s Oncology Group (COG), American Society of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology (ASPHO), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Dr. Shah has received multiple research awards and grants. Other professional activities include lecturing nationally and internationally and serving as an ad-hoc reviewer for reputed medical journals. His work has appeared in multiple peer-reviewed medical journals, and he has served as principal investigator for sponsored research studies.