The University of Alabama has announced that Director of Athletics Bill Battle will undergo the latest in a series of treatments for multiple myeloma, a condition he has been dealing with privately for more than two years. While the treatment will keep him away from his office for a few weeks, he will continue to direct the Department of Athletics while in daily communication with senior athletics officials.
Battle will be undergoing a stem cell transplant under the supervision of Sagar Lonial, M.D., a world-renowned expert in the research and treatment of multiple myeloma, at The Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. The announcement said that Battle is in excellent health and his condition is not considered life-threatening. Dr. Lonial describes the disease as being in "a good partial remission,” noting that the procedure is the standard “next step” of treatment.
“In the spring of 2014, I was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer," Battle said in the announcement. "Subsequent to that diagnosis my wife, Mary, and I visited with doctors at The University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center; University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas; the Lewis and Faye Manderson Cancer Center at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa; and the Winship Cancer Institute to determine the best treatment options. I am very comfortable with the diagnosis and treatment plan. I am looking forward to getting this behind me and continuing my active lifestyle, as well as continuing to lead our Athletics Department. My experience has made it clear to me that cancer can be a treatable disease that can be dealt with while maintaining a high quality of life.”
“This is a great example of early detection as the result of regular medical check-ups,” said Dr. Stuart R. Bell, president of The University of Alabama. “We are glad he is undergoing this, being thorough and following the best medical recommendations.”
“Mr. Battle has been receiving treatment for multiple myeloma and has done very well," said Dr. Lonial, who serves as the Winship Cancer Institute’s chief medical officer. "He will be undergoing stem cell transplantation, which is a routine part of treatment for myeloma. We anticipate his response and outcome will be outstanding and I fully expect to see him back on the sidelines in the fall, cheering Alabama on."
Dr. Lonial says the goal of Battle’s treatment plan is to get him to the point of low-intensity or observational status, post-transplant. He will be checked on a regular schedule and, at some point, might need maintenance therapy but his care should ensure a high quality of life. Dr. Lonial stressed that multiple myeloma is a treatable condition, particularly for patients of Battle's fitness level.
Battle's transplant will be an autologous stem cell transplant, a transplant using his own stem cells. According to Dr. Lonial, autologous stem cell transplants create fewer side effects than many other treatments and are well tolerated.
Battle's illness was originally detected in March of 2014 during a regularly scheduled executive physical at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Health and Wellness Center in Birmingham. At that time, a radiologist discovered a small tumor (plasmacytoma) on a spinal vertebra.
In May of 2014, Battle received radiation therapy at The University of Alabama at Birmingham for the plasmacytoma and his condition was monitored for the next year by UAB's Medical Oncology Department. In May of 2015, a diagnosis of early stage one multiple myeloma was made at UAB. In June of that year, Battle received a consultation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, under the supervision of Dr. Robert Orlowski. Dr. Orlowski recommended that he begin a chemotherapy regimen and, at some point a stem cell transplant using his own stem cells. Dr. Lonial later supported Dr. Orlowski’s diagnosis that a stem cell transplant would be the appropriate treatment.
In August of 2015, Battle began the first of three courses of chemotherapy at Manderson Cancer Center in Tuscaloosa under the care of Dr. David Hinton. That treatment put the cancer into what is presently described by his doctors as a good partial remission.
"Coach Battle has done very well with his treatment,” Hinton said. “He is in great physical shape, has responded very well to all of his treatment so far, and we expect an excellent response from this stage of treatment as well. The purpose of this procedure is to prolong his remission. He has been very active, exercising, staying in great shape, and he will to be able to continue that lifestyle after completing this phase of treatment."
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