Stem Cell Transplant
Over the past decade, bone marrow/stem cell transplant has evolved from an experimental procedure for patients with leukemia into a rapidly expanding area of clinical investigation that offers high cure rates for patients with more than 60 previously fatal diseases — including several types of cancer.
Peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, which is very similar to bone marrow transplantation, has become an established form of treatment for some forms of leukemia and lymphoma.
The aim is to replace the body’s stem cells, which are the basic cells from which all types of blood cells arise. Stem cells divide and take different developmental pathways that result in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, all produced in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is found in the cavities of the body’s bones. It is a substance resembling blood that produces the body’s blood components (including red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells) — the main agents of the body’s immune system.
While it is possible to use very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation to kill cancer cells, these treatments also kill stem cells in the bone marrow and open the door to potentially fatal infections. Damage to stem cells also produces a severe shortage of platelets that are needed to help stop bleeding after cuts and scrapes. Leukemia itself, which is cancer of the blood cells, also damages stem cells and bone marrow.
How Does It Work?
Stem cells can be taken from a donor with a similar blood and tissue type as the patient (called allogeneic transplant), or from the patient’s own peripheral (circulating) blood before chemotherapy (autologous transplant). The blood is drawn from a vein and then circulated in a high-speed cell separator.
- The stem cells are carefully frozen and stored and the plasma and red blood cells are returned to the patient or donor.
- The patient then undergoes chemotherapy, which destroys the remaining cancer cells but also kills normal cells in the bone marrow.
- This is when the stem cells are “transplanted.” They are returned to the body as a blood transfusion, where they establish themselves and restore the body’s ability to produce blood cells.
- Growth factors (hormone-like drugs that stimulate bone marrow stem cells) may be added to boost the production of cells. The patient is also put on drugs that keep the body from rejecting the transplant.
Transplantation of peripheral blood stem cells offers some advantages over traditional bone marrow transplantation, according to the American Cancer Society. It can be used even when cancer cells have spread to the bone marrow, and the procedure can often be done on an outpatient basis without the need for general anesthesia.
Every Capability to Fight Cancer
The Health Alliance’s Jewish Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program offers the full range of transplant and treatment options including:
- Autologous stem cell transplant: The patient’s own marrow is used. A small amount of marrow is removed sometimes “purged” of cancerous cells and reinfused.
- Allogeneic stem cell transplant: Marrow that is genetically similar to the patient’s marrow is harvested from a relative or donor who is unrelated to the patient.
- Syngeneic: The donor is an identical twin of the recipient.
- Leukemia treatment to ensure consistency of care and speed readiness for transplant, if needed: induction therapy, consolidation therapy, high dose chemotherapy.
- On-site bone marrow harvest and peripheral stem cell pheresis: Many of our autologous patients undergo peripheral stem cell pheresis. Less invasive than traditional bone marrow harvest, it does not require general anesthesia. Our clinical research studies are evaluating new drugs to help prime the stem cells for harvest and reduce the number of collections needed for a transplant.
- Inpatient transplants with outpatient follow-up
A Proven Program Focused on Success
The Health Alliance’s Jewish Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program has been serving patients and their referring oncologists since 1989. Our program offers hope for patients¾ hope for a good outcome, a promising future, a return to everyday life. At the same time, The Jewish Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program offers a proven, success-oriented program that is responsive to our patients’ needs.
Research protocols ensure that all patients are evaluated to receive leading-edge treatments. And the 23-bed intensive care unit offers state-of-the-art care that minimizes stress and maximizes comfort for patients and their families.
Continuity of Care for Patients
To help our patients feel comfortable with our staff, we assign them a nurse clinician for your entire inpatient stay, and another for your outpatient follow-up. Even on the transplant unit, we make every effort to provide you with the same staff nurses — to make you feel more comfortable, and more relaxed.
We welcome your questions about stem cell transplantation or about The Jewish Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.
Glossary of Terms
|Apheresis||Any procedure in which blood is withdrawn from a donor, a portion (plasma, leukocytes, platelets, etc.) is separated and retained. The remainder is re-transfused into the donor. It includes leukapheresis, plateletpheresis, plasmapheresis, etc.|
|Autologous||Derived from the same individual|
|Bone Marrow||A highly vascular, modified connective tissue found in the long bones and certain flat bones of vertebrates that is the origin of blood cells.|
|Cryostorage||Storage in frozen form.|
|Gene||The basic unit of heredity; an ordered sequence of nucleotide bases, comprising a segment of DNA. A gene contains the sequence of DNA that encodes one polypeptide chain.|
|Plasma||The liquid portion of blood, excluding the cellular elements but including the proteins.|
|Plasmapheresis||Apheresis procedure applied to remove plasma.|
|Platelets||Cell fragments in blood which are involved in blood clotting.|
|Purging||Consists of exposing the cancer-contaminated bone marrow to a variety of cancer-killing agents prior to cryostorage.|
|Stem Cells||Undifferentiated, primitive cells in the bone marrow with the ability to both multiply and to differentiate into specific blood cells.|
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