Who Needs Transplants?
There are many blood cancers and other life-threatening blood or bone diseases that are treatable by a marrow/stem cell transplant.
The most common diseases that are treated by a transplant are Leukemia and Lymphoma. In fact, 72% of all transplants facilitated by the NMDP are for Leukemia, Lymphoma or other blood cancers.
Other diseases that are often treated with a marrow/stem cell transplant include Myelodysplasia, Severe Aplastic Anemia, Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, Hyper IgM Syndrome, and many other genetic/immune diseases.
How a Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant Works:
When a patient is diagnosed with a blood disease such as Leukemia, their ability to produce healthy blood cells is impaired. For Leukemia and Lymphoma specifically, their bone marrow is not able to produce healthy white blood cells, which in turn, makes your body unable to fight infections properly. This affects the ability of a patient’s bone marrow to then produce enough red blood cells and platelets.
Essentially, their bone marrow is defective. In order to treat this, doctors often start with chemotherapy to kill off the defective blood cells in hopes that a patient’s bone marrow will start to produce healthy blood cells.
Once a lot of the defective blood cells are killed, then they opt to do a marrow/stem cell transplant where they will transplant a patient’s OWN healthy cells, or they may look for healthy blood stem cells from a donor. The aim of a marrow/stem cell transplant is to “jumpstart” a patient’s ability to produce healthy cells by introducing healthy bone marrow that will:
- kill off the defective cells some more and
- start producing healthy cells in the patient’s body.
Autologous vs Allogeneic transplant:
When a patient receives stem cells from their own body, it is called an “autologous” transplant.
When a patient receives stem cells from someone else, it is called an “allogeneic” transplant.
For some patients, a transplant may not be appropriate, but for many others, a marrow/stem cell transplant is the best chance for treating their disease. Patients should consult with their doctors to figure out their best course of treatment.