What Is a Blood or Marrow Transplant (BMT)?

A blood or marrow transplant (BMT) is also called a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, because it involves hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are manufactured in your bone marrow, the soft material inside your bones. They can transform into specific kinds of blood cells, depending on what your body needs at the time: red cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body; white cells, which fight infection; and platelets, which cause your blood to clot after an injury.

When hematopoietic cells move into the bloodstream, they are called peripheral blood stem cells or blood progenitor cells (BPCs).

Some types of blood-based (hematologic) cancers can be treated with a stem cell transplant to replace the diseased marrow. The specific type of transplant depends on where the stem cells come from:

  • If the transplanted stem cells come from a donor’s marrow, it is called a bone marrow transplant.
  • If the transplanted cells come from the blood of the patient or a donor, it’s called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.

There are two basic types of transplant: allogeneic (a donor supplies the healthy stem cells) and autologous (your own blood stem cells are used).

Diseases We Treat with BMT

Roswell Park offers BMT for adult patients between the ages of 18 and 80. (Find information about pediatric BMT patients here) Eligible adult patients may undergo transplant for:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs)
  • Selected solid tumors (malignant)

Timing is Critical

It is very important that you and your doctor start the BMT process as soon as possible after your diagnosis is confirmed. About 15 percent of patients who come to Roswell Park to be evaluated for BMT cannot undergo transplant, because they were referred too late. The longer you wait, the more time the disease has to move ahead, and that reduces the chance for a successful transplant.

It may take several weeks to find a suitable donor or to collect your own blood stem cells, apply for insurance approval, prepare you for the transplant and line up caregivers to help you after your transplant. So, even if you are already receiving another type of treatment or are in remission, you should begin the BMT process right away. If you should need a transplant in the future because your current treatment stops working or the disease comes back, this will save precious time.

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