GREAT FALLS (AP)
The Sletten Cancer Institute here has hired a specialist who plans to increase the availability of blood and bone marrow transplants here. Dr. Brian L. Abbott will serve as director of hematology. He is also a pediatric oncologist, making him just the second such specialist in the state, Sletten officials said. The other pediatric oncologist is in Billings. During a press conference Tuesday, Abbott said Sletten is developing a team of oncologists to help cancer patients receive the majority of their treatment in Montana. The Montana Cancer Registry shows some 50 new cases of childhood cancer per year statewide. Abbott said the most common childhood cancer is acute leukemia, or cancer of the blood; followed by neuroblastoma, which is cancer in nerve tissue. “Treatment options within the state were very limited in the past, and I am hoping that we can change that,” he said. “Many people don’t realize it, but the most common form of childhood leukemia has cure rates of over 90 percent.” Helping patients stay in Montana for treatment is a priority for Abbott. “Things are difficult enough for these families without also having to worry about uprooting to a big city and living in a motel for weeks at a time,” he said. For the last six years, Abbott has specialized in blood and bone marrow disorders in adults and children in Kansas City and Denver. The treatments included regular chemotherapy, as well as blood and bone marrow stem cell transplants, which allow physicians to integrate the use of high-dose chemotherapy with treatments that preserve bone marrow function. Abbott, 34, graduated from the University of Tennessee and completed his residency in pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, followed by fellowships in pediatric hematology- oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and medical and pediatric stem cell transplantation at the University of Colorado. Abbott began volunteering seven years ago at Camp Mak-A-Dream, east of Missoula, a free camp for children with cancer and their siblings. The Sletten Cancer Institute is affiliated with Benefis Healthcare.