Niketa Shah, MD, is director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program, and says there is no greater satisfaction than watching how a transplant transforms a child’s life.
"Once a transplant is over and it’s a few months down the road, I love seeing the smiles and satisfaction from my patients and their parents,” she says. “As a parent, once your child takes their first steps, you dream about their future. But that gets shattered when you know your child is suffering from a deadly disease. By offering a transplant, we give them a chance to get their dreams back.”
Dr. Shah specializes in stem cell transplant including bone marrow transplants for children with high-risk leukemia where chemotherapy has not worked or is unlikely to work. “For those patients, transplant is the only curative option. We also do transplant for some inherited diseases (sickle cell, other hematological diseases, and metabolic diseases such as adrenoleukodystrophy), where there is no cure,” she explains.
The Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program, which launched in 2011, is the only of its kind in Connecticut.
“Transplant is not a one-time surgery where you have the surgery and go home. It’s a lengthy course, spanning from a hospital stay of four to six weeks, followed by close follow-up for three to four months or longer depending on their clinical status. This requires commitment from the entire family—so it’s great that families in Connecticut can stay close to home,” Dr. Shah says.
Dr. Shah gets to know her patients and families well. “I have walked down the aisle at graduation with former patients and their parents,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see them complete college, when I remember how difficult a time they had and how brave they were. Some of them want to go into the medical field to give back.”
Dr. Shah’s research explores how to improve transplants for sickle cell disease, and to prevent or treat graft-versus-host disease in stem cell transplant. She is also investigating the pharmacogenomic aspect of stem cell transplant medications. She is an assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at Yale School of Medicine.
Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital