Blood has three main cell types:
New blood cells (called stem cells) begin in the bone marrow — the spongy material found inside the bones. They enter the bloodstream when mature.
A stem cell transplant uses chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy to remove unhealthy cells from the body or bone marrow and replaces the bone marrow with healthy stem cells. The goal is to treat childhood cancers and nonmalignant (noncancerous) blood and bone marrow diseases. A stem cell transplant is also called a blood and bone marrow transplant.
There are three main types of stem cell sources based on how and from whom the stem cells are collected:
There are two main types of pediatric stem cell transplants:
If kids use their own stem cells, it’s called an autologous stem cell transplant (or autologous bone marrow rescue). Doctors typically use peripheral blood stem cells that are collected prior to the transplant and then frozen for later use.:
After intensive treatment such as high-dose chemotherapy, doctors reinfuse the stem cells back into the child’s blood. There, they make new healthy cells. The primary goal of an autologous bone marrow transplant is to “rescue” a child from the effects of high doses of chemotherapy.
Recently autologous bone marrow transplants have been used in clinical trials as the vehicle for gene therapy.
When a parent, sibling or unrelated person donates genetically matched stem cells, it’s called an allogeneic stem cell transplant. Similar to an autologous stem cell transplant transplant, patients are typically treated with chemotherapy or radiation or immunotherapy to remove unhealthy cells and then receive a stem cell infusion, except in an allogeneic stem cell transplant, doctors get healthy stem cells from a donor’s bone marrow or blood.
Doctors use allogeneicstem cell transplants to treat leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells, which starts in the bone marrow.
Doctors treat different types of childhood leukemia with allogenic bone marrow transplants, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Learn more about treating childhood leukemia.
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) has recognized Nemours Children’s as an affiliated center for matched unrelated donor transplants. Many insurance providers also recognize us as a Center of Excellence.
Our Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program is accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapies (FACT). Only hospitals with the highest-quality bone marrow transplant care and best outcomes have earned this accreditation.
We also rank among the very best in the country for both pediatric orthopedics (bone treatment) and cancer care (U.S. News & World Report named Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware one of the “Best Hospitals”).
Our combined expertise allows us to diagnose and treat common, rare and complex leukemias and other diseases. We also offer:
We use stem cell transplants to treat childhood cancers and blood disorders including:
We treat nonmalignant (noncancerous) bone marrow disorders, immune system deficiencies and some metabolic disorders with allogeneic bone marrow transplants.
Some of the nonmalignant conditions we treat include:
Children getting bone marrow transplants need very specialized care from their first visit and throughout treatment, recovery and beyond. Transplants typically take up to three weeks for planning and preparation. Kids then need another six weeks of inpatient hospital care in special blood and bone marrow transplant units staffed by highly trained physicians and nurses.
The process varies depending on the type of pediatric bone marrow transplant procedure, the condition we’re treating and other factors. But overall, you can expect:
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