Treatment

Blood and Marrow Transplant Program

Blood cells in your body develop from special stem cells located in the bone marrow. A blood and marrow transplant is a procedure that replenishes the body’s supply of blood stem cells with stem cells taken either from you or a donor. These stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow or collected from the bloodstream, hence the name “blood and marrow transplant” or “blood or marrow transplant.” The procedure may also be referred to as a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant.

Blood and marrow transplants are used to treat and potentially cure blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as other blood diseases, such as aplastic anemia and thalassemia.

The Blood and Marrow 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 in cancer with an international reputation for excellence: patients have traveled to our facility from all over the United States, and some have even come from other countries.

When you receive a blood or marrow 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, studies that test new medications and techniques.

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.

More about the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program

Is a blood and marrow transplant the same as a bone marrow transplant?

“Blood and marrow transplant” is a new name for the procedure known as a bone marrow transplant. The purpose of the procedure has always been to replace or rejuvenate the blood-forming stem cells that reside in the bone marrow.

The procedure was initially called a bone marrow transplant, or BMT, because, when it was developed in the 1950s, the only way to obtain stem cells was to remove them from the marrow.  Now that doctors are able to collect stem cells from the bloodstream, a more accurate term for the procedure is blood and marrow transplant. This is the term we use at Siteman, and this is what we’re referring to by the acronym BMT.

You may occasionally hear the procedure described as a stem cell transplant. This reflects the fact that stem cells, not bone marrow, are the actual material being transplanted.

What conditions can be treated with a blood and marrow transplant?

Blood and marrow transplants are used to treat, and even cure, cancers of the blood, or “hematologic cancers.” These are:

If you are undergoing treatment for blood cancer at Siteman, your medical oncologists will care for you from diagnosis onwards, up to and including a potential transplant. This is an advantage over other institutions, where patients are assigned new doctors to oversee their transplants. Washington University Physicians at Siteman will be able to fully integrate the transplant into your plan of care.

Patients with other cancers may receive a blood or marrow transplant if their treatment regimen has damaged their bone marrow to such an extent that it is unable to produce healthy blood cells.

In addition to cancers, blood and marrow transplants can also treat conditions such as:

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Congenital neutropenia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Thalassemia

Why do I need a transplant?

There are a number of reasons why your doctor might recommend a blood or marrow transplant. A transplant might be the only way to treat a blood cancer, such as lymphoma or multiple myeloma. You might need a transplant to prevent or treat relapse if you have acute myeloid leukemia. A transplant can also repair your bone marrow if it’s been affected by treatments for a different cancer.

What makes a good candidate for a transplant?

Transplants are more likely to be effective when patients are younger and healthier. Patients who have a number of health concerns in addition to their cancer, such as heart disease or diabetes, may not be ideal candidates for a blood or marrow transplant.