The Bone Marrow produces blood cells. Stem Cells are immature cells in the Bone Marrow that give rise to all of your different blood cells.
Why is Bone Marrow Transplant Needed?
The goal of a bone marrow transplant is to cure many diseases and types of cancer. When the doses of chemotherapy or radiation needed to cure a cancer are so high that a person’s bone marrow stem cells will be permanently damaged or destroyed by the treatment, a bone marrow transplant may be needed. Bone marrow transplants may also be needed if a disease has destroyed the bone marrow.
What are some diseases that may benefit from bone marrow transplant? The following diseases are the ones that most commonly benefit from bone marrow transplant:
- Severe aplastic anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Immune deficiency disorders
- Some solid-tumor cancers
However, patients experience diseases differently, and bone marrow transplant may not be appropriate for everyone who suffers from these diseases.
Before the transplant, chemotherapy, radiation, or both may be given. It may be done in two ways:
- Ablative (myeloablative) treatment: High-dose chemotherapy, radiation, or both are given to kill any cancer cells. It also kills all healthy bone marrow that remains and allows new stem cells to grow in the bone marrow.
- Reduced intensity treatment, also called a mini transplant: People receive lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation before a transplant. It allows older people, and those with other health problems to have a transplant.
What are the different procedures for Bone Marrow Transplant?
- Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant: The term auto means self. Stem cells are removed from you before you receive high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The stem cells are stored in a freezer. After high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatments, your stems cells are put back in your body to make normal blood cells. It is called a rescue transplant.
- Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant: Stem cells are removed from another person, called a donor. Most times, the donor’s genes must at least partly match your genes. Special tests are done to see if a donor is a good match for you. A brother or sister is most likely to be a good match. Sometimes parents, children, and other relatives are good matches. Donors who are not related to you, yet still match, may be found through national bone marrow registries.
- Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant: This is a type of allogeneic transplant. Stem cells are removed from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord right after birth. The stem cells are frozen and stored until they are needed for a transplant. Umbilical cord blood cells are very immature, so there is less of a need for perfect matching. Due to the smaller number of stem cells, blood counts take much longer to recover.
A stem cell transplant is usually done after chemotherapy and radiation are complete. The stem cells are delivered into your bloodstream usually through a tube called a central venous catheter. The process is similar to getting a blood transfusion. The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow. Most times, no surgery is needed.
Donor stem cells can be collected in two ways:
- Bone Marrow Harvest: This minor surgery is done under general anesthesia. IThis means the donor will be asleep and pain-free during the procedure. The bone marrow is removed from the back of both hip bones. The amount of marrow removed depends on the weight of the person who is receiving it.
- Leukapheresis: First, the donor is given several days of shots to help stem cells move from the bone marrow into the blood. During leukapheresis, blood is removed from the donor through an IV line. The part of white blood cells that contains stem cells is then separated in a machine and removed to be later given to the recipient. The red blood cells are returned to the donor.