Stem cells are immature cells that eventually develop into the various types of mature blood cells:
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen
- Platelets, which help the blood clot
- White blood cells, which help fight infection
A stem cell transplant replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal blood cells have been crowded out by cancerous cells. Transplants can also be used to treat hereditary disorders such as sickle cell anemia, or to help patients recover from, or better tolerate, cancer treatment.
Stem cell transplantation can be performed using one’s own stem cells (autologous) or another person’s stem cells (allogeneic). Allogeneic stem cell transplantation offers potentially curative therapy to patients with a variety of cancers.
Stem cells for transplant come from the following sources:
- Autologous transplant: cells are taken from the patient's own bone marrow before chemotherapy and are then replaced after cancer treatment.
- Allogeneic transplant: stem cells come from a donor whose tissue most closely matches the patient.
- Cord Blood Transplant: We are in the process of developing this program and expect to be operational this year.
Human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, typing is the method by which stem cell transplant patients are matched with eligible donors. HLA are proteins that exist on the surface of most cells in the body.
The closest possible match between the HLA markers of the donor and the patient reduces the risk of graft versus host disease (GVHD). This condition occurs after transplant when your immune cells attack the donor cells, or when the donor cells attack your cells. The best match is usually a first degree relative (siblings, children or parents). However, about 75 percent of patients do not have a suitable donor in their family and require cells from matched unrelated donors (MUD). These donors are found through registries such as the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).
HLA typing is done with a blood sample or mouth swab taken from the patient, which is then compared with samples from a family member or a donor registry.
Matched Unrelated Donor Program
Ideally, a brother, sister or other family member can serve as the stem cell donor. For those patients without a family or related donor, the unrelated transplant coordinator team, working in conjunction with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMPD), helps identify HLA-matched unrelated donors (MUD). Approximately 9 million volunteer donors are registered with the NMDP, which facilitates over 1,000 MUD transplants each year.
Banner MD Anderson’s Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program will be certified by the NMDP to facilitate unrelated donor searches and transplants.
Our unrelated transplant coordinators will supervise the search process and the pre-transplant evaluation and testing of the donor and recipient. The unrelated transplant coordinators will have the most up-to-date information regarding the matched unrelated donor process. If there are any questions regarding unrelated transplantation or the donation process, contact your unrelated transplantation coordinator.