Bone Marrow and Stem Cells Transplant Basics
The basic idea behind bone marrow/stem cell transplantation (BMT/SCT) is to allow high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to kill rapidly dividing cells in the body to make room for new, healthy cells. Cancer cells, like other cells in the body, divide rapidly. Though these treatments are among the most effective weapons against many forms of cancer, they do not have precise aim and they cannot target only diseased cells. As a result, many normal rapidly dividing cells, including stem cells, are also destroyed during the treatment. Therefore, “rescue” with transplanted bone marrow or stem cells enables the patient to produce new blood cells to replace those destroyed during treatment.
There are two main types of bone marrow or stem cell transplants: allogeneic (a donor supplies the marrow or stem cells) and autologous (the patient’s own bone marrow or stem cells are used). A syngeneic transplant is a type of allogeneic transplant of marrow or stem cells from an identical twin. Several factors determine what type of BMT/SCT a patient should have, including the type of disease, age, overall health, and availability of a donor.
Click here to learn how you can receive a copy of The Bone Marrow Foundation’s medical and educational handbooks for allogeneic and autologous transplantation. Both books are also available in Spanish.