In 1956 Thomas performed the first successful bone marrow transplant
between two humans: a leukemic patient and his identical twin. The recipient's
body accepted the donated marrow and used it to make new, healthy blood
cells and immune system cells. Thomas adopted methods to match the tissues
of donor and recipient closely enough to minimize the latter's rejection
of the former's marrow, and he also developed drugs to suppress the
immune system. In 1969 these refinements enabled him to perform the
first successful bone marrow transplant in a leukemia patient from a
relative who was not an identical twin. Before his work, leukemia had
invariably been a fatal disease. By 1990, as a result of his research,
more than half of all leukemia patients could be expected to survive.
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