A bone marrow transplant is a process to replace unhealthy bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants can treat:
- Blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma.
- Bone marrow diseases like aplastic anemia.
- Other immune system or genetic diseases.
Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside your bones that creates blood-forming cells. These cells turn into blood cells such as:
- White blood cells to fight off sickness.
- Red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout the body.
- Platelets to control bleeding.
Patients receiving a bone marrow transplant are given high doses of chemotherapy, radiation, or both, to attack cancer cells and healthy cells in the bone marrow where blood is formed. After the cells have been killed, the patient receives new blood-forming cells through an IV. After receiving new blood-forming cells, healthy blood cells will begin to develop.
A bone marrow transplant gives a patient healthy blood cells collected from the patient or a donor. The blood cells may be collected from blood or from bone marrow. There are two types of blood-forming cell transplant.
An autologous transplant is where your own blood cells are collected and stored. You get them back after a treatment with high dose chemotherapy. Think of this type of transplant as a rescue. High doses of chemotherapy or radiation kill your natural bone marrow. After that, you get your stored blood cells back to repair your damaged bone marrow. These blood-forming cells help you make the new blood cells needed to be healthy. This type of transplant is used in patients with lymphomas and multiple myeloma.
An allogeneic transplant uses blood cells collected from another person (also called a donor). This person may be a family member or someone who isn’t related to you. In this transplant your bone marrow is replaced with healthy marrow from someone else. This type of transplant is used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anemia or other blood disorders.
An allogeneic transplant uses blood-forming cells donated by someone else. This person may be a family member or someone unrelated to you.
It is not your responsibility to find your own donor. To begin the search for a donor, your doctor will first look within your family—typically a sibling. About 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a matched donor in their family. If there is not a donor match in your family, your doctor will search through donor registries to find a unrelated donor.
You can learn more about finding a donor on the Be The Match website.
There are a number of reputable resources available to learn more about these treatments. You may also ask your doctors any questions that you have about the disease and they will be able to give you answers specific to your needs.
Be The Match is an online bone marrow registry that shares a wealth of transplant resources online for free. Visit the following pages for more information from this trusted resource:
Blood & Marrow Transplant Information Network (BMT InfoNet) is a leading advocacy organization for bone marrow, stem cell and cord blood transplant patients. Visit the following pages for more information from this trusted resource:
For more information on blood and marrow transplants and Markey's support services, consider visiting the following webpages: