A new bone marrow transplant could save the lives of at least 30 more leukaemia patients a year, an expert said yesterday. The procedure could be carried out on elderly patients unfit for conventional transplants. Queen Mary Hospital, which is attached to the University of Hong Kong, has carried out the new 'mini-bone marrow transplants' on 11 patients since mid-2000. The oldest was 58 and all are still alive. This compares with a survival rate of only about 50 per cent in the case of conventional bone marrow transplants, Dr Lie Kwok-wai, of the university's department of medicine, said. The new treatment could be made available to patients up to 65, 10 years older than the age limit for conventional treatment. Dr Lie said mini-bone marrow transplantation was similar to conventional bone marrow transplants except that doctors tightened the dosages of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to minimise toxicity. He estimated that 30 more elderly patients a year could benefit from the new treatment. Dr Lie said about 300 blood cancer patients were treated every year and that Queen Mary Hospital carried out more than 100 bone marrow transplants annually. Professor Kwong Yok-lam, of the department of haematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at the University of Hong Kong, said his team was planning to extend the use of the new treatment to renal cancer. But he said the procedure was only two years old and doctors needed more time to observe the patient recovery rate before using it to replace conventional bone marrow transplants. 'Although the results of the new treatment are excellent so far, we need further medical data to confirm it is more beneficial and effective than the conventional bone marrow transplant on patients,' Professor Kwong said.