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Robert Masterson

Advanced Treatment Prevented Amputation

Holy Name Patient Stories - Robert Masterson

Robert Masterson had a wound on his left toe that just wouldn't heal. He tried a variety of treatments to improve his poor circulation but nothing was working and his mobility was limited. More importantly, he was afraid he would need his toe amputated, like two others before it.

"Both my father and sister had legs amputated and I really didn't want that," Robert said. "And at that point in time, I was really afraid of losing another toe."

Robert's podiatrist recommended he see Dr. John Rundback, Director of the Interventional Institute at Holy Name Medical Center, to see if the sluggish blood flow to his legs could be improved. Dr. Rundback first performed a procedure to help clear Robert's veins - what Robert calls "a roto-rooter" on his legs.

Then he asked Robert to participate in a clinical trial.

The study, called the Pluristem CLI Study (critical limb ischemia - inadequate blood supply), uses cells from the placenta of a healthy birth to help the body build more blood vessels. These new blood vessels increase blood flow, which enhances the healing of chronic wounds.

Holy Name was one of the first locations nationwide to participate in this trial, which was fast-tracked by the Federal Drug Administration. It was life changing for Robert.

"It worked for me and I feel fine now," Robert said. "I'm able to go about my regular life - shopping with my wife, visiting friends and going to the movies."

In the trial, the cells injected into the patient's limb stimulate the body's own regenerative mechanisms to create new blood vessels. Most people grow new vessels naturally but Masterson, 76, has diabetes, one of the diseases that can interfere with this process.

"Holy Name was chosen because of its successful participation in more than 250 clinical trials," said Dr. Ravit Barkama, AVP of Clinical Development at Holy Name. "It's really intriguing to convert the miracle of childbirth into therapeutic options."

The trial is indicative of the new approaches being tried in the treatment of long-standing illnesses and conditions that until now have seen limited success. Dr. Rundback said it's essential to create new ways of addressing these illnesses.

"We should be thinking of the future for therapies whereby we provide biological solutions such as stem cells, genetic therapies and personalized medicine," Dr. Rundback said. "We really need these types of approaches to recruit the body's own healing capacity."

Robert is one of the nearly 7 million people in the U.S. who have non-healing wounds, and the number is expected to rise. Many of these patients must endure life-saving amputations that often drastically diminish their quality of life. More alarming, the 5-year survival rate for amputees is only 50 percent.

"Now I ride my stationary bike every day and have no sores on my foot," Robert said. "I see my podiatrist every three months but I've had no problems since."

Learn more about Interventional Institute and Wound Treatment at Holy Name