Bone Marrow Transplantation and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation

Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBSCT) are procedures that restore stem cells that have been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. There are three types of transplants:

  • In autologous transplants, patients receive their own stem cells.

  • In syngeneic transplants, patients receive stem cells from their identical twin.

  • In allogeneic transplants, patients receive stem cells from their brother, sister, or parent. A person who is not related to the patient (an unrelated donor) also may be used.

One reason BMT and PBSCT are used in cancer treatment is to make it possible for patients to receive very high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The high doses destroy both cancer cells and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. After the treatment, the patient receives healthy, blood-forming stem cells through a flexible tube placed in a large vein. New blood cells develop from the transplanted stem cells. Stem cells may be taken from the patient before the high-dose treatment, or they may come from another person. Patients stay in the hospital for this treatment1.

The side effects of high-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation include infection and bleeding. In addition, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) may occur in people who receive stem cells from a donor. In GVHD, the donated stem cells attack the patient's tissues. Most often, GVHD affects the liver, skin, or digestive tract. GVHD can be severe or even fatal. It can occur any time after the transplant, even years later. Drugs may help prevent, treat, or control GVHD.

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Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's PDQ Database:

1 http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/bone-marrow-transplant. (Accessed July 2016)