Blood and Marrow Transplant

Blood and marrow transplant overview

Blood and marrow transplant (BMT) is often the best therapy for blood cancers. It’s also among the greatest success stories in cancer care — and it started right here.

Through the Fred Hutch Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), we’ve performed more than 17,000 transplants. This makes our program not only the first, but also one of the most respected and successful of its kind in the world.

Our depth and breadth of knowledge allows us to treat both common and very rare blood diseases, and help manage any complications that might arise, helping you get better faster. And if you need a donor, we will help you find one. Today, because of advanced research, nearly everyone who needs a donor can be matched with one.

Looking for information on pediatric BMTs? With our alliance partners at Seattle Children’s, we also specialize in pediatric BMTs. 

New discoveries and treatments 

The world’s first bone marrow transplant took place in the 1970s, when one of our physician-researchers, E. Donnall Thomas, MD, and his team developed the clinical use of transplants — and won a Nobel Prize for this work. 

Each year since then, our physicians and researchers have made more discoveries. And in the past few years alone, major advances have made treatment available for more people, such as those who are older and those who might not have found a donor in the past. 
for you.

“A misconception about BMT is that it is almost impossible to find a donor, particularly if you are from a certain race or ethnicity. This used to be true, but not now. Today, treatments and techniques have improved, too, which are making BMTs even more successful.”
— Marco Mielcarek, MD, PhD, Medical Director, Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Program

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is a BMT?

A BMT restarts your body’s ability to make healthy new blood cells by replacing abnormally forming stem cells with healthy cells.

What is conditioning?

Conditioning is when a patient receives chemotherapy, radiation or both before a BMT. This is done to destroy or weaken the damaged cells in the patient’s body. 

Why is BMT needed?

Sometimes the amount of radiation, chemotherapy or both that is needed to treat a cancer is so high that a patient’s stem cells will be badly damaged or destroyed by these treatments. Other times, bone marrow can be destroyed by a disease. BMT replaces these damaged cells with healthy new cells.

Where do you get the cells to transplant?

The cells that are transplanted, called hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, can come from bone marrow, circulating blood or umbilical cord blood donated by a new mother.

What types of diseases can BMT treat?

BMT can be used to treat blood cancers, like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome. It can also be used to treat non-cancerous diseases like aplastic anemia, myelofibrosis and immune deficiency disorders.

What are the different types of BMTs?

Allogeneic transplant: When healthy stem cells used in a transplant come from a donor, it is called an allogeneic transplant. 

Autologous transplant: When healthy stem cells come from a patient’s own body, it is called an autologous transplant.

Blood/stem cell transplant: When healthy stem cells come from a patient’s own blood (autologous) or a healthy donor’s blood (allogeneic), it is called a blood/stem cell transplant. These are the most common type of transplants. 

Bone marrow transplant: When healthy stem cells come from a healthy donor’s bone marrow, it is called a bone marrow transplant. 

Cord blood transplant: A cord blood transplant is a type of allogeneic transplant. It uses stem cells from the blood of a newborn’s umbilical cord. 
After a baby is born, parents can choose to donate their umbilical cords. The blood from these cords is frozen, then stored in a cord blood bank until it is used in a transplant.

Haploidentical (haplo) transplant: Sometimes a parent, sibling or child can be a donor, even if they are not a very close match to the patient. In a haploidentical transplant, these first-degree relatives only need to be a 50 percent match to the patient.
 

Fred Hutch Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA

SCCA South Lake Union
phone (206) 606-1024
Call us to set up a transplant phone consultation, Monday–Friday, 6:30 am–6 pm.
phone (800) 804-8824
Hours: Monday–Friday, 6:30 am – 6 pm
fax (206) 606-1025

Your initial consultation

At our Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, you will begin with an initial consultation with a transplant oncologist, who will talk with you about your treatment options and make recommendations for you and your referring physician. This appointment can be in person or through telehealth.

If your appointment is in person, you’ll also meet with a transplant nurse, who will tell you more about BMT and give you a tour of the SCCA South Lake Union clinic. This is also a time for us to get to know you better and answer any questions you may have.

Care at SCCA

Your SCCA transplant team is here to treat you, to listen to you and to take care of you and your family. They are BMT experts who focus exclusively on treating patients just like you, every day, who are going through BMT. 

About your transplant team

Your team includes a group of world-class professionals including a transplant oncologist, transplant nurse, advanced practice provider, pharmacist, registered dietitian, team coordinator and social worker, all here to support you. We also offer supportive care services to care for your well-being in every sense. 

“What motivates me is the depth and breadth of treatments we can offer our patients, including clinical trials. Along with that is the wealth of expertise across our clinical program that gives hope and promise to making every day better for our patients and families.”
— Effie W. Petersdorf, MD, Medical Director, Unrelated Donor Transplant Program

Transplant path

BMT involves several steps. It will take about four months if you’re receiving cells from a donor and about two months if your own cells will be used. 

After your initial consultation, the next step is finding and preparing a stem cell donor, if you need one, or preparing to have your own stem cells collected for use in your transplant later. We will guide you, step by step, as you get ready.

When you arrive at SCCA for your transplant, your experienced team thoroughly evaluates your health before providing your conditioning treatment (chemotherapy, radiation or both) and transplanting the stem cells. 

After the transplant infusion, as your bone marrow and immune system recover, we will carefully monitor and support you and your caregiver until you’re ready to return to your referring physician’s care.

When it’s time to go home, we’ll make sure you feel ready and tell you about our Long-Term Follow-Up (LTFU) Program.
 

“My whole family would agree that our whole experience here from Day 1 was, and still is, one of the most defining things in our lives. These are the best kind of people who you never want to see. When we came here, there was clearly a different mentality.”
— Ted Ave’Lallemant, acute lymphocytic leukemia patient

Other resources

Long-Term Follow-Up Program
Long-Term Follow-Up Program

Through the Fred Hutch Long-Term Follow-Up (LTFU) Program at SCCA, we provide support not only in the months after you leave our care, but for the rest of your life. LTFU is an exclusive program for SCCA patients who have completed BMT.
 

Care team
Care team

At SCCA, our team of dedicated BMT experts gives you the highest level of care and support. You’re part of the care team, too. And you’re at the center of everything we do.

Research
Research

More than 50 years ago, Nobel Prize-winner E. Donnall Thomas, MD, and his team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center first developed clinical use of transplants. Today, the internationally renowned physician-researchers at Fred Hutch Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA continue to lead the way.

Caregivers and BMT
Caregivers and BMT

Before you have a BMT, you will need to choose a responsible family member or friend who can be your caregiver and stay with you during your treatment and recovery. As part of planning for your transplant, it is important to know more about what caregivers do, then decide who can be your caregiver.