Stem Cell Transplant for Leukemia

Patients with leukemia sometimes benefit from receiving a stem cell transplant, or bone marrow transplant. This procedure replenishes the blood stem cells in the bone marrow so they can go on to produce healthy new blood cells.

The Stem Cell Transplant Program at Siteman Cancer Center, located at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is one of the largest transplant programs in the world.

Since our program began in 1982, our physicians have conducted more than 7,500 transplants. We are national leaders with an international reputation for excellence: patients have travelled to our facility from all over the United States, and some have even come from other countries.

When you receive a stem cell transplant at Siteman, you will be treated by Washington University Physicians and cared for by specialist nurses and staff. The size and breadth of our program means that we have every available drug, technology, and resource at your disposal. Many of our patients receive cutting-edge treatments through clinical trials.

Our team also partners with Washington University’s Center for Gene and Cellular Immunotherapy to offer advanced treatments that can harness the immune system to fight cancer. These treatments, which include CAR T-cell therapy, are only available at a limited number of institutions.

What are the different types of blood and marrow transplant?

There are three different kinds of stem cell transplants. The types indicate where, or who, the stem cells come from. Patients with leukemia often receive allogeneic transplants.

  • Autologous transplant:When you receive an autologous transplant, you donate stem cells for yourself. Stem cells will be removed from your blood or bone marrow and then returned to you after an intense regimen of chemotherapy and radiation to eliminate the remaining cancerous cells in your body.

  • Allogeneic transplant:In an allogeneic transplant, the stem cells come from a donor. The donor can be a close blood relative or an individual located through a national donor registry program, such as Be the Match. Occasionally, stem cells will be taken from umbilical cord blood that has been donated after the birth of a child.

  • Syngeneic transplant:In syngeneic transplants, the stem cell donor is an identical twin. This is the rarest type of transplant.

How do I get a referral for a transplant?

If your physician believes that you are a good candidate for a blood or marrow transplant, he or she should contact our referral specialists at 314-747-3046 or 877-251-6485 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Referrals also can be made online through a secure appointment request service at

What is the transplant process like?

A stem cell transplant is a months-long process that can be physically and emotionally taxing. Though the procedure itself does not take a long time, patients usually enter the hospital at least one week before the transplant for preparatory treatments and then stay for several weeks afterwards to recover.

First, stem cells are collected from the donor or the patient, depending on the type of transplant taking place. In the past, physicians would extract bone marrow from patient’s hipbone in order to access the stem cells. Today, most physicians use a process called pheresis to separate the stem cells from the bloodstream.

Then, the stem cells are transfused into the patient after he or she undergoes a preparatory regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. After the transfusion, patients remain in the hospital for at least several weeks as they recover.

Process for donors

What are the risks and side effects of a stem cell transplant?

A stem cell transplant is a major medical procedure that impacts the entire body. Consequently, there are a number of risks to transplant patients. Your care team at Siteman will design your treatment plan so as to minimize the risks you experience. They will also continue to monitor your health and progress long after you leave the hospital. Be sure to share your concerns with your physicians and care team, and they will do what they can to provide guidance and reassurance.

Learn more about some of the risks associated with a transplant, along with the strategies Washington University Physicians at Siteman often use to manage them.

Why Siteman?

The Stem Cell Transplant Program at Siteman Cancer Center has an international reputation for exceptional patient care. Learn more about the advantages that Siteman has to offer.