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About the Stem Cell Transplantation Program

  • Stem cell transplant patient with a clinicianThe Stem Cell Transplantation program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center is one of the largest and most experienced stem cell transplant programs in the world. Since our program began in 1972, we have performed more than 8,700 transplants for the treatment of blood cancers and related disorders.

    Our Program’s center-specific outcomes have been recognized as among the best in the United States. The Program’s team of experts is highly regarded in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplants, and will work to address your needs throughout treatment and beyond.

    Our doctors, researchers, and patient care staff will collaborate with our hematologic malignancies care teams and your referring physician to create the most effective treatment strategies. These experienced and dedicated stem cell transplant specialists will follow you through the continuum of transplant services in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.

    Our stem cell transplant services include:

    • Autologous transplant, using your own stem cells.
    • Allogeneic transplant, using stem cells from a family member, unrelated matching donor, or umbilical cord blood.
    • Comprehensive services for related and unrelated donors.
    • Access to our extensive offering of specialized stem cell transplant clinical trials.
    • Transplantation for adults over age 60.

    What is a stem cell transplant?

    Stem cell transplantation refers to a procedure where healthy stem cells are transplanted from one individual to another, or using an individual's own stem cells. Sources of stem cells include bone marrow, peripheral blood or umbilical cord blood. You may hear the procedure referred to as a bone marrow transplant (BMT) or peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT) or umbilical cord blood transplantation (UCBT), depending on the source of the cells that are transplanted.

    Hematopoietic stem cells can grow into any of the cells found within the bloodstream. They make blood cells and the components that your immune system needs to function. During a transplant, your body is infused with healthy stem cells which then grow and produce all of the different parts of the blood that both your body and your immune system need.

    When is a stem cell transplant needed?

    You may need a stem cell transplant when:

    • Your body cannot make the blood cells it needs because your bone marrow or stem cells have failed.
    • Your bone marrow or blood cells have become diseased and need to be replaced.
    • You have a disease that is treated with high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, which destroys both cancerous and stem cells at the same time.

    What happens in a stem cell transplant?

    When you undergo a stem cell transplant, doctors replace your stem cells with healthy new stem cells from a volunteer stem cell donor. Here’s a brief overview of what happens:

    • You will receive chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill the diseased cells. This treatment, known as conditioning, will damage and possibly destroy your bone marrow/blood stem cells.
    • You will receive new, healthy stem cells (in a process called an infusion, which is similar to a blood transfusion) to replace the destroyed cells. Unlike other forms of organ transplant (e.g. heart, kidney, etc.) surgery is not required for a stem cell transplant.
    • The transplanted cells will begin to grow and produce healthy red and white blood cells and platelets.
    • The process of growing new blood cells generally takes between two and four weeks; during this time you may be hospitalized so that doctors can monitor your progress.

    In some cases, your own stem cells may be suitable for the procedure; this is called an autologous transplant. If you need stem cells from a donor (an allogeneic transplant) we will help coordinate that process through our comprehensive donor services program. Your physician will decide what type of transplant should be used for your treatment and the source of the transplanted stem cells.

    Our accreditations and credentials

    • Charter member of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • Member of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR)
    • Member of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (formerly CALGB)
    • Fully accredited with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)
    • Accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT)

    Read our Insight blog for information and inspiration about stem cell transplantation at Dana-Farber.