Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant | Loyola Medicine

Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant

Expert Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program

Our interdisciplinary team of doctors is dedicated to research and improvement of the transplant process, thereby improving patient outcomes and survival rates. Loyola is proud to be a participating transplant, apheresis and collection center in the National Marrow Donor Program network.

Bone marrow is found in the center cavities of all bones and within the ends of the long bones of your arms and legs. Bone marrow is composed of stem cells that give origin to:

  • Red cells (RBC) or erythrocytes are responsible for carrying oxygen to all body tissues and organs
  • White cells (WBC) or leukocytes kill germs that can cause infection
  • Platelets or thrombocytes are responsible for clotting and preventing excessive bleeding
  • Stem cells multiply, divide and mature in the bone marrow. They are released into the bloodstream as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

The goal of a bone marrow or peripheral (stem cell) transplant is to replace unhealthy stem cells with healthy stem cells, or to replace bone marrow cells that are damaged while treating cancer with high-dose therapy. The new cells from a transplant will cause the bone marrow to function normally again.

Why Choose Loyola for Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant?

Loyola offers a full spectrum of transplant options and is dedicated to maintaining your physical and mental fitness. Our highly skilled transplant team will answer your medical questions and help you through the process. Care is provided by our experienced, interdisciplinary transplant team, which includes attending physicians, an advanced practice nurse, professional nursing staff, dietitians, social workers, chaplains and a clinical psychologist.

Our program is actively involved in research, providing individuals with an opportunity to participate in a variety of clinical trials, including national breast, lymphoma, leukemia, ovarian, testicular and multiple myeloma studies.

Types of Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplant is most commonly used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. However, this treatment option can also be used to treat other cancers such as neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma. 

The type of transplant you may have is determined by your diagnosis. There are three types of bone marrow transplants:

  • An allogeneic transplant is a transplant of stem cells from one person to another. The donor may be a blood relative or someone unrelated. A donor match is determined by a laboratory test called HLA typing.
  • In an autologous transplant, the patient acts as his or her own donor. Either the bone marrow (taken from the hip bones) or peripheral blood stem cells (taken from a blood vessel) are removed, stored and given back to the patient at a later date.
  • A syngeneic transplant uses the bone marrow from an identical twin. Identical twins have identical genetic material; therefore, their HLA type matches perfectly.

What Happens During a Bone Marrow Transplant?

A bone marrow/stem cell transplant comprises three steps, including preparation, transplant and recovery. To start, your doctors will prepare your body for transplant by using chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate the existing unhealthy cells. 

Once the preparation is complete, you will undergo the transplant, which is infused very similarly to a blood transfusion.  Following the transplant procedure, you will stay in the hospital while your body begins to produce healthy bone marrow and your doctors ensure that the transplant was successful.


Risks of Bone Marrow Transplant

Complications that may occur with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant include:

  • Cataracts
  • Death
  • Graft-versus-host disease (allogeneic transplant only)
  • Infections
  • Infertility
  • New cancers
  • Organ injury
  • Stem cell (graft) failure

Loyola’s health professionals work with you to explain your individualized risk for complications. Together, we will weigh the risks and benefits to decide whether a bone marrow/stem cell transplant is right for you.

We encourage you to visit these websites to find out more: