Blood and marrow transplant overview
Bone marrow transplantation is among the greatest success stories in cancer care. It has boosted cure rates for some blood cancers from nearly zero to 90 percent. The Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA has led since the beginning, when Nobel Prize-winner E. Donnall Thomas, MD, and his team first developed clinical use of transplants at Fred Hutch in the 1970s. Today, our doctors and researchers continue to innovate, making this life-saving treatment more effective and more widely available than ever.
For information on pediatric bone marrow transplantation, please visit our pediatric blood and marrow transplant section for helpful information for parents.
I was diagnosed in 2010 with a myelodysplastic syndrome, also called MDS, which includes a number of diseases associated with the bone marrow. It quickly became evident that a bone marrow transplant would be my best option for survival.
When she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma as a 22-year-old college student, Sarah Kaufmann-Fink was told that the average life expectancy from diagnosis for myeloma patients was two to four years – It’s now been more than 11 years.
In 2005, while working as a forest ranger in Wisconsin, Ted Ave’Lallemant started feeling ill. His fever and exhaustion tailed him for three weeks until he visited his doctor.
What is bone marrow transplant?
After you have chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both to destroy the cells causing your disease, a blood or marrow transplant restarts your body’s ability to make healthy new blood cells. The transplanted cells, called hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, can come from bone marrow, circulating blood or umbilical cord blood donated by a new mother. Stem cells offer the possibility of a “reset” for diseases like leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome.
What is my transplant path at SCCA?
You’ll begin with an initial consultation, where you meet SCCA transplant experts who answer your questions and help you plan and prepare yourself and your family. Next comes 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 guide you, step by step, as you get ready.
When you arrive at SCCA for your actual transplant, your experienced team thoroughly evaluates your health before providing your conditioning treatment (chemotherapy, radiation or both) and infusing the donor stem cells. As your bone marrow and immune system recover, we carefully monitor you and support you and your personal caregiver until you’re ready to return to your referring doctor’s care.
The experience to defy limitations
Doctors at the Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA have performed more than 16,000 bone marrow transplants. Our deep experience — in caring for patients and families and leading groundbreaking scientific research — allows us to look beyond today’s boundaries to develop the advanced transplant regimens of tomorrow.
We’ve pioneered innovations like less toxic, reduced-intensity (non-myeloablative) transplants for older people or those with multiple health problems and minimally mismatched, haploidentical or cord blood transplants, which mean nearly everyone who needs a donor can find one.
Do more than survive: thrive
With our commitment to caring and excellence, SCCA constantly works to improve transplant survival rates and also ensure our patients thrive.
Ours is one of only 5 out of 177 transplant centers nationwide whose patients achieved higher-than-expected survival rates for at least six years in a row. Advances made here to reduce post-transplant complications, like graft-versus-host disease, have led to better long-term survival. Our Long-Term Follow-Up Program, providing lifelong support for transplant recipients, is unmatched in the world.
More information on how SCCA bone marrow transplant survival rates exceed expectations
The Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA has been recognized by the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research® (CIBMTR) for outperforming its expected one-year survival rates for allogeneic transplant patients – those who receive donated adult blood-forming stem cells. SCCA’s program is one of only five programs to exceed expectations for at least six years in a row.
To arrive at its findings, CIBMTR independently examined the survival rates of 24,141 allogeneic transplant patients treated at U.S. centers in the National Marrow Donor Program network. The reporting period for the 2018 report covered Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016. During this period, 788 allogeneic transplants were performed at SCCA and met the criteria for the study.
The report, published annually, is required by federal law and is designed to provide potential stem cell transplant recipients, their families and the public with comparative survival rates among transplant centers.
“We are extremely proud that patients receiving allogeneic bone marrow transplants at SCCA can expect survival rates that are consistently better than the expected one-year survival rates,” said Dr. Marco Mielcarek, medical director for the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Program at SCCA and associate member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch.
“Outcomes are attributable to many factors, but our dedicated team and their decades of transplant experience and groundbreaking research are important contributors to sustaining exceptional outcomes. Our research has yielded consistent improvements in efficacy and safety of stem cell transplantation. Our team is committed to continued improvements in outcomes for all our patients.”
SCCA was formed, in part, to bring promising new treatments to patients faster. For bone marrow transplant recipients, this means more treatment options at SCCA than you might find elsewhere, including the chance to participate in one of many ongoing clinical trials conducted at SCCA and its alliance partners, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.
At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Finding or becoming a donor
People who are having an allogeneic transplant (using someone else’s cells) need a donor to provide stem cells. Those having an autologous transplant (using their own cells) do not need a donor (or may not have found a donor).
People who undergo a transplant need a personal caregiver to help with their treatment and recovery. Your caregiver should be a responsible family member or friend who can provide physical care, observation, and emotional support for you throughout the transplant process. As part of planning ahead for your transplant, it is important to decide who can be your caregiver.