Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Treatment
Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are treatments for relatively rare cancers of the blood that generally require aggressive treatment. These transplants give you new marrow in a process similar to a blood transfusion.
Bone marrow is a liquid tissue, found inside bones, that produces blood cells. Stem cells are immature blood-producing cells found mostly in marrow. The blood cells they produce include oxygen-carrying red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells, and platelets, which enable blood to clot.
Bone marrow transplantation has been used as therapy for several potentially fatal blood disorders since 1968. Physicians at Indiana University Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center use bone marrow transplant to treat patients with:
- Blood-related cancers (leukemia and lymphomas such as Hodgkin's disease and multiple myeloma)
- Solid tumors (such as breast or testicular cancer)
- Lack of normal blood cell production (aplastic anemia)
- Inherited (genetic) diseases
- Immune system (immunodeficiency) disorders
Jump ahead on this page
|1. Types of Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplants|
|2. Treatment Options for Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Translplants|
|3. Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Specialists|
|4. Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Research|
Types of Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplants
Autologous transplant uses your own stem cells. We use this method for:
- Blood-related cancers (lymphomas, Hodgkin's disease, and leukemia)
- Connective tissue cancers (sarcomas)
- Nervous system cancers (neuroblastoma)
- Certain solid tumor cancers (breast, testicular and ovarian cancer)
Allogeneic transplant uses stem cells from a donor. We use this method for:
- Blood-related cancers (leukemia and lymphomas)
- Bone marrow disorders (myelodysplastic syndrome and aplastic anemia)
- Immune system disorders (these reduce the body's ability to fight disease)
- Metabolic diseases (these disrupt the body's ability to produce materials needed for life)
- Other inherited (genetic) diseases
The bone marrow and stem cell transplant team provides care for both adults and children. Over the past ten years, we have treated more than 1400 cases of multiple myeloma (a cancer of the marrow that also attacks the surrounding bone). We are experts in diagnosis of bone marrow-related cancers and in the use of bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
What are treatment options for Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant?
In preparation for bone marrow transplant, we use chemotherapy alone, or a combination of chemotherapy with high doses of radiation, to destroy cancerous cells. Unfortunately, these methods also destroy healthy cells, including those in the bone marrow, which may cause side effects. Side effects often get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.
Once it is determined that this preparatory treatment is complete, new stem cells are transplanted in the bones. These stem cells mature into healthy marrow, which again produces healthy blood cells.
Stem cells used in the bone marrow transplant procedure typically come from one of two sources: your own marrow (autologous) and a donor’s marrow (allogeneic).
Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
Before chemotherapy, marrow is taken from inside the bones, and healthy marrow is separated from cancerous marrow. This healthy marrow is frozen and stored, then transplanted after chemotherapy is complete. With this method there is no risk of your body rejecting the transplanted marrow.
Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
The second possible source for healthy marrow is a donor, usually a close relative. As with your own marrow, a portion of the donor’s marrow is removed from the hips. The amount harvested is about 10 percent of the donor’s total marrow. Within a short time, the marrow will replenish itself. Side effects to the donor may be mild anemia and sore hips.
Stem cells can also be taken from the donor’s bloodstream via a collection catheter (thin, flexible tube). With this method, there are fewer complications for the donor. Stem cells are collected from the harvested blood and prepared for transplant.
Although the donor procedure may vary, the procedure for transplant into your bones is the same. The only difference between autologous and allogeneic transplant is that donor transplants sometimes require drugs to help the body accept the new marrow.
The rate of complications from the chemotherapy and implant procedure is low. After either form of transplant, you can expect to return to normal life activities with few, if any, lifestyle changes.
Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Specialists
Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Research
As partners with the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University Health performed its first allogeneic bone marrow transplant in January 1985 and its first autologous bone marrow transplant in July 1986. More recently, careful research by the team has resulted in optimizing the use of chemotherapy to prepare patients for bone marrow and stem cell transplant.
We are also a leader in the use of cord blood, which is taken from the umbilical cord at birth. The first cord blood used in the world for transplantation was processed and stored here. The IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center is one of six transplant centers designated by the National Institutes of Health for conducting studies in cord blood transplantation.
More information about cancer research can be found on the IU School of Medicine website.
IU Health Simon Cancer Center is at the forefront of clinical trials for treatments for blood cancers. Based on your particular needs, you may have the option to enroll in one or more of these clinical trials. This would allow you access to the newest treatments available anywhere. Some of the current trials are focused on:
- Investigation into relapses. Current trials include increased doses of chemotherapy and alternative medications for chemotherapy.
- Improved results from donor transplants. Donor transplants carry a risk of rejection of the donor marrow. Sometimes your body will attack the new cells as if they were dangerous. New drugs are being developed to overcome this adverse reaction. Trials with these new drugs are conducted at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center.
- Stem cell biology (the scientific study of cells from which other cell types can develop)
- Alternate or unrelated donors
- Germ cell tumors (tumors that begin in cells that produce sperm or eggs)
- Gene therapy (the treatment of cancer by altering a gene)