Understanding Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant | Knight …

By daniellenierenberg

Stem cell transplants from bone marrow or blood offer lifesaving treatment. They are also taxing physically and emotionally.

Its important to know:

What are stem cells?

Blood cells are short-lived and must be replaced. Blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic cells)divide and multiply. Some mature into one of three blood cell types:

Stem cells are found in bone marrow, in the bloodstream and in umbilical cord blood. In the bloodstream, they are called peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs). Stem cells from any of these sources can be used in transplants.

What are stem cell transplants?

With a stem cell transplant, a doctor gives you healthy replacementcells that help you fight infection and disease. Doctors most often use stem cell transplants to treat blood disorders and blood cancers that:

A transplant is like a blood transfusion. There are three types:

How stem cell transplants work

Youundergo a process called conditioning. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both are used todestroycancer cells and healthy cells that could keep your body from accepting transplanted cells.

New cells are added toyour bloodstream with an IV. The cellscollect in your bone marrow, where they produce new blood cells. Because conditioning leaves your immune system weak, you will need two to three weeks of monitoring.

Who gets a transplant?

At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, we consider every person with blood cancer for a stem cell transplant. It might be right for you if your cancer didnt respond to other treatment or if your cancer came back after treatment.

Our providers meet at weekly gatherings called tumor boards to develop the best treatment options for each patient.

Our team considers factors such as your:

Youll want to consider:

What disorders do transplants treat?

Bone marrow/stem cell transplants may be an option to treat:



Other blood cancers and blood disorders:

Other conditions:

Types of stem cell transplants

There are two main types of transplants, each with risks and benefits. OHSU is the only place in Oregon that offers allogeneic transplants.

Autologous transplant

What is it?This type uses your own stem cells. This eliminates the risk of your body rejecting donor cells or of donor cells attacking your body. A relapse may be more likely, though, because you wont have healthy donated cells to attack any diseased cells that remain after conditioning.

How it works:Your care team collects bone marrow using a hollow needle or draws blood and uses a machine to separate out stem cells. The stem cells are frozen. After the conditioning process, the cells are transplanted using anIV drip.

Allogeneic transplant

What is it? We use cells from a donor. Sometimes your own cells are too diseased to collect and reuse. Donor cells are more aggressive in killing any diseased cells left after conditioning. The risk is that they may aggressively target your healthy cells as well, a complication called graft-versus-host disease.

How it works: After the conditioning process, we transplant healthy donor cells using anIV drip. The donor cells help your body rebuild your immune system. A donor can be a relative or someone else whose marrow matches yours.

Allogeneic transplants include:

Bone marrow donors

OHSU has participated in Be The Match: The National Marrow Donor Program since 1996. This program helps people find a lifesaving marrow or PBSC donor. Donors must meet medical guidelinesand should expect to spend 20 to 30 hours in treatment over four to six weeks.

Testing:To find the closest match, doctors will test your blood and a potential donors blood to find their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type.

HLA markers:Everyone inherits a set of HLA markers from their parents. These markers, contained in almost all of your cells, tell your body which cells belong to you. The more matching markers you and a donor have, the better your chances of a successful transplant. OHSU has success with haploidentical transplants, however, in which as few as half the markers match.

Transplant risks

As with any procedure, transplants involve risks. Your care team will discuss these with you in detail.

Infection: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy weaken your immune system. You are at high risk of infection for up to six weeks until your new cells make healthy blood cells. Your care team will keep you in a safe environment with protection against airborne germs. You will receive safety instructions for going home.

Low platelets:Your platelets will be low for three or more weeks. We will take great care to help you avoid injury or bleeding. Some patients may need a blood transfusion to replace platelets.

Pain:Mouth or throat pain is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may cause difficulty eating or swallowing for a few weeks.

Graft failure: Transplant (graft) failure occurs when the body rejects the donor cells. This is rare with stem cell transplants but more common when HLA types are poorly matched.

Graft-versus-host disease:This happens when transplanted cells from the donor attack the recipients tissue and organs. This common complication can range from mild to life-threatening.

Organ damage:Chemotherapy and radiation can leave lasting damage. Well monitor you closely for signs of any problem.

Infertility:The chemotherapy and radiation therapy used before transplants typically result in infertility. OHSU fertility expertscan offer options to preserve your ability to have children before treatment begins.

Physical and emotional effects

Transplants are difficult. They require weeks in or near the hospital, away from work and regular activities. Our cancer social workerscan provide support to you and your family before, during and after treatment:

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Understanding Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant | Knight ...

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