How Do Bone Marrow Transplants Work?
As per the National Marrow Donor Program (bethematch.org), thousands of people with blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other life-threatening diseases, depend on a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT) to save their life.
What Is A Bone Marrow Transplant?
Healthy marrow and blood cells are needed to live. When disease affects marrow so that it cannot function properly, a marrow or cord blood transplant could be the best treatment option, and for some patients, offers the only potential cure.
A bone marrow transplant takes a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells and puts them into the patient’s bloodstream, where they begin to grow and make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Patients receive high doses of chemotherapy to prepare their body for the transplant. Then on transplant day, the patient receives the donated cells in a process that is like getting blood or medicine through an intravenous (IV) catheter, or tube
The initial step of the bone marrow transplant process is called conditioning, in which existing bone marrow cells, including some leukemia cells, are destroyed. This allows the donor’s stem cells to take hold in the patient’s bone marrow, kill the remaining leukemia cells, and replaces unhealthy bone marrow and blood cells with healthy marrow and cells.
How Does Bone Marrow Transplant for AML Work?
BMT, also known as a bone marrow transplant or blood stem cell transplant, can treat patients who have AML, including older patients. It replaces the unhealthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) with healthy ones. For some people, transplant can cure their disease.
The most common type of bone marrow transplant for AML is an allogeneic transplant. This type of transplant uses healthy blood-forming cells donated by someone else to replace the unhealthy ones. These healthy cells can come from a family member, unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood. First, you get chemotherapy (chemo), with or without radiation, to kill the unhealthy cells. Then, the healthy cells are given to you through an intravenous (IV) catheter. The new cells travel to the inside of your bones and begin to make healthy blood cells.
The entire process, from when you start chemo or radiation, until hospital discharge, can last weeks to months. This is followed by many months of recovery near the transplant center and at home. Your transplant team will watch you closely to prevent and treat any side effects or complications.
The SIERRA Trial and AML Bone Marrow Transplant
The SIERRA clinical trial seeks to determine the effectiveness of the investigational drug Iomab-B, which may enable more transplants in patients age 55 and older. Upon approval, Iomab-B is intended to prepare and condition patients for a bone marrow transplant, in a potentially safer and more efficacious manner than intensive chemotherapy conditioning that is the current standard of care in bone marrow transplant conditioning.
The SIERRA clinical trial may help improve the way AML is treated in the future.