Bone Marrow Transplantation
Stem cell transplants, also called bone marrow transplants, have become an important treatment to fight specific blood cancers. To date, over one million stem cell / bone marrow transplantations have been performed worldwide, and this number continues to rise. Following a transplant, many people with blood cancer live longer or have been cured.
Stem cells are immature blood cells found in your bone marrow and blood, and they produce the blood cells that you need to survive. But cancers of the blood, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can all damage your bone marrow, thereby affecting your stem cells’ ability to make more blood cells for your body. This is where a stem cell transplant can help. Transplanted cells (which come from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood) replace the destroyed bone marrow, so your body can produce healthier, life-sustaining blood cells. In addition, a stem cell transplant from a donor can actually help to treat specific types of cancer. Sometimes, the donated cells recognize and kill cancer cells more effectively than the person’s original immune cells.
At Sheba Medical Center’s Hemato-Oncology Division, our physicians are highly experienced with stem cell / bone marrow transplants and have performed over 2,000 of these advanced procedures. Our team comprises world-renowned experts, including hematologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists, who evaluate each case on an individual basis to provide optimized, personalized treatment. Sheba utilizes a cutting-edge HLA laboratory and our on-site molecular laboratory to find a perfect donor match for stem cell transplantation. If no genetically suitable donor can be located, Sheba is a member of the National Marrow Donor Program and may use stem cells from this data bank. Throughout the transplantation process, we practice holistic medicine that considers your overall well-being and quality of life.
Diseases Treated by Stem Cell / Bone Marrow Transplantation
At Sheba, we offer stem cell transplantation for the following types of cancer:
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Adult and Child
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Adult and Child
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Adult and Child
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Adult and Child
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL), Adult and Child
- Hodgkin Lymphoma, Adult and Child
- Multiple myeloma, Adult
- Myelofibrosis, Adult
- Osteosarcoma, Child
- Neuroblastoma, Child
- Ewing’s sarcoma or Ewing sarcoma, Child
- Wilms’ tumor (Nephroblastoma), Child
- Medulloblastoma, Child
- Rhabdomyosarcoma, Child
Side Effects of Bone Marrow / Stem Cell Transplantation
A number of side effects may be caused by stem cell transplantation. Some of the problems occur during the conditioning process, which prepares your immune system for the transplant, while other symptoms may appear during and following the infusion of new stem cells. Side effects can range from mild to severe and life-threatening, which is why it is critical to inform your Sheba medical team about any symptoms or changes you notice. Our transplant team can help to prevent and relieve the discomfort of many side effects.
Side effects during conditioning
Conditioning treatments get your body ready for a stem cell transplant, and they may involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Side effects may include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- Difficulty breathing
Side effects during stem cell infusion
As you receive your new stem cells, the most common symptoms include:
These side effects can present up to one hour after the infusion is completed.
Side effects during engraftment
Engraftment is the phase that follows the infusion of new stem cells. This is when the transplanted stem cells start to produce new blood components in your body, such as platelets and red blood cells. Typical side effects during engraftment include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Skin rashes
- Mucositis (causes difficulty with eating and drinking)
- Lack of appetite
Post-transplant side effects
After transplantation is complete, you may experience:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Hair loss
- Skin rash
- Decreased libido
- Weight changes
With time and as your immune system recovers, these side effects will usually subside.
Types of Stem Cell / Bone Marrow Transplantation
There are two main types of stem cell transplants, categorized by the source of the donor marrow: autologous transplants and allogeneic transplants.
Autologous transplants are taken from your own stem cells, typically sourced from peripheral blood that is frozen and preserved. Your stem cells must be harvested from your blood before you receive any cancer-killing treatments.
The advantage of autologous transplants is that you do not need to worry about graft-versus-host disease, which refers to when the engrafted cells attack your body.
Allogeneic transplants are performed using donor tissue from someone who is genetically suitable, often a close family member. The stem cells may be sourced from peripheral blood, bone marrow, or cord blood. When a perfect genetic match cannot be located, a mismatched allogeneic transplant may also be performed. In this case, the stem cells are sourced from peripheral blood and must undergo a refinement process to compensate for the riskier mismatch.
A possible advantage of allogeneic transplants is that the donor stem cells create their own immune cells, which may help to kill cancer kills that remain in your body after treatment. However, graft-versus-host disease is a risk when performing allogeneic transplants.
Patient Testimonial – After Bone Marrow Transplantation
Yulia Egorova’s young son, Ivan, was diagnosed with leukemia in Russia and needed a bone marrow transplant. After extensive research to locate the best medical facility for this advanced procedure, Yulia decided on the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic at Sheba Medical Center. Ivan underwent a bone marrow transplant at Sheba, and the donor cells survived. He recently returned to school and lives life just like other kids.
Read Ivan’s story here