Some hematologic (blood-based) disorders, including leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), and certain lymphomas, are best treated by replacing your diseased blood and marrow system with that of a healthy donor. The recovery process takes longer than autologous BMT, which uses your own blood or marrow.
The allogeneic transplant process begins with the search for a suitable donor. If you need a donor, Roswell Park’s Transplant Coordinator will coordinate the search.
After a donor has been identified, your bone marrow and the abnormal cells inside it are destroyed with chemotherapy and/or radiation. At the same time, for several weeks you will be given immune-suppressing drugs. This first part of the process is called a conditioning regimen. The drugs serve two purposes: to keep your body from rejecting the donor’s cells, and to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which occurs when the donor’s cells attack your body.
Allogeneic BMT also has a benefit called the graft-versus-cancer effect, which occurs when the donor’s cells recognize and attack cancer cells in your body. This effect is strongest in blood and marrow cancers, making allogeneic BMT effective in curing patients of life-threatening hematologic (blood-based) cancers.
In the next step, called the rescue/infusion, you receive either healthy marrow or blood stem cells (also called hematopoietic cells) provided by the donor. The cells are given intravenously, in a process very similar to a blood transfusion. The cells travel through your bloodstream to your bone marrow, where they can start producing healthy blood cells.