News Release

April 21, 2010

Contact: Chris DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Medical Home for Adults with Sickle Cell Disease

UConn Health Center Leading Collaborative Adult Sickle Cell Program

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Children who grow up with sickle cell disease won’t outgrow it, often leaving them in a sort of “no man’s land” for their care as adults.

Recognizing this, Dr. Biree Andemariam, a hematologist in University of Connecticut Health Center, is working with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to help patients transition out of pediatric care. She works with nurses and a social worker to see sickle cell patients in the Health Center’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. A grant from the Department of Public Health enables New Britain-based Citizens for Quality Sickle Cell Care to provide a case worker and patient care navigator.

"Previously, many adults with sickle cell disease resorted to using emergency departments for routine care," Andemariam says. "Now they have a place to call home."

Sickle cell disease is a hereditary blood disorder that leaves patients prone to impaired circulation and oxygen delivery to the tissues, eventually leading to widespread organ dysfunction and severe pain. Andemariam says about 80,000 people in the United States – and millions worldwide – have sickle cell disease. It has a higher prevalence in those of African, Hispanic, Caribbean, South American, Mediterranean, and Indian ancestry.

"Median survival is still around age 40, despite medical knowledge of the exact molecular defect for over 60 years," Andemariam says. "Our program’s primary mission is to change that. Bone marrow transplantation is curative, but very risky, and new therapies are virtually non-existent. Most treatment is palliative, not preventative. We have a long way to go. We want to develop novel therapies and perhaps even cures."

The Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinical and Research Center is part of the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders, where Andemariam also conducts lab research and clinical trials.

More information about the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinical and Research Center is available at To schedule an appointment, call 860-679-2100.

Caption: Oncology nurse Minal Patel performs a blood transfusion on a sickle cell disease patient in the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UConn Health Center, where Dr. Biree Andemariam (middle) has started the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinical and Research Center. The patient, Chad Bruce, 25, of Middletown, says he’s had to get blood transfusions every three weeks since he was 7.

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