Leukemia: Are bone marrow transplants part of treatments? | Norton Cancer Institute

Leukemia: Are bone marrow transplants part of treatments? | Norton Cancer Institute


Bone marrow transplant can take
two principal forms. We generally refer to this as stem cell transplant and in order to understand this I’ll go
back to the metaphor again of the garden. Your blood has to be constantly replenished and it turns out that how that happens is that you have these cells that are
responsible for all the different blood cells, we call those stem cells, S-T-E-M just like
the stem a flower. These stem cells are capable of
regenerating not only themselves, so they can make
another seed, or make another stem, but they’re also responsible for growing
all of your blood cells. So, when we talk about a bone marrow
transplant, we’re really talking about a stem-cell transplant. You can either use your own
cells, which we do some in leukemia but more in lymphomas and other diseases, or you can get your
seed cells or your stem cells from another individual whether it is a
sibling that you share tissue-type with or an unrelated donor someone who is not related to you, but is signed up to participate in an
unrelated donor bank. And those are the sources of the stem
cell. Once you’ve identified someone who is a good candidate for transplant based on a lot of different things,
they have to generally be healthy and they have to have a disease for
which transplant has been shown to be helpful. Once you identify the donor then the
patient undergoes very high doses of chemotherapy and less often now but still sometimes radiation therapy. The goal of that is not only to wipe out
whatever residual disease may be left, but to create the space so that you can then take that stem cell
from someone else put it in the patient and have their
garden regrown.