Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cells are immature cells that eventually develop into the various types of mature blood cells:
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen
- Platelets, which help the blood clot
- White blood cells, which help fight infection
A stem cell transplant replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal blood cells have been crowded out by cancerous cells. Transplants can also be used to treat hereditary disorders such as sickle cell anemia, or to help patients recover from or better tolerate cancer treatment.
Stem cells for transplant come from the following sources:
Autologous transplant: replacement cells are taken from the patient's own bone marrow before chemotherapy and are then replaced after treatment.
Allogeneic transplant: stem cells come from a donor whose tissue most closely matches the patient. About 75% of patients do not have a suitable donor in their family and require cells from matched unrelated donors (MUD), who are are found through the National Marrow Donor Program.
Umbilical cord blood from newborn infants is extracted from the placenta after birth and saved in special cord blood banks for future use.