Blood & Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation

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Hematologic oncologist Oscar Lahoud meets with a patient

Hematologic oncologist Oscar Lahoud provides comprehensive care to people with blood cancers.

A stem cell transplant is a treatment for some kinds of cancer. This includes blood cancers such as leukemialymphoma, and multiple myeloma. A stem cell transplant also can be used to treat some genetic conditions and blood diseases that are not cancer.

You may hear your transplant called a stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant. In a stem cell transplant, new stem cells are added into the bloodstream to replace unhealthy cells. The stem cells are taken from either the bone marrow or the bloodstream. A bone marrow transplant is a kind of stem cell transplant. In this procedure, the stem cells are taken from the bone marrow.

Stem cells are immature cells that grow into all the blood cells in your body. Your stem cells are always dividing and changing into different types of blood cells. Most stem cells are in bone marrow, the soft tissue in the spaces in the center of mostly larger bones. A few stem cells are also found in your bloodstream.

What to Expect When Making an Appointment for a Stem Cell Transplant
Learn what to expect when you call to make an appointment for a stem cell transplant at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Who Can Have a Stem Cell Transplant?

Stem cell transplants have been done for many years. We can now give transplants to some people who could not have them in the past. This includes people who are older or who have other medical conditions.

Stem cell transplants can be hard on many people. The process to get a person ready for the procedure has side effects. They include nausea (feeling like throwing up), diarrhea (watery poop), mouth sores, and fatigue (feeling very tired).

Your immune system is your body’s defense against infection and disease. It is suppressed for a long time after a transplant. That means it’s weakened and stops working as well. During that time, you’re at a higher risk for many types of infections.

Because of possible complications, a stem cell transplant is not right for everyone.

Why Choose MSK for a Stem Cell Transplant?

Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service Chief Sergio Giralt

Several recent advances have made bone marrow transplantation a safe option for more patients. 

Memorial Sloan Kettering is one of the largest centers for stem cell and bone marrow transplants in the country. In 1973, our doctors did the world’s first successful transplant between a patient and an unrelated donor.

Since then, MSK has been a leader in stem cell transplantation. We developed many of the transplant methods widely used today. MSK has done more than 10,000 transplants.

MSK doctors and care teams never stop improving the care we deliver. Researchers who specialize in stem cell transplantation always work to reduce the complications of transplants. We’re also working to make stem cell transplants available to more people.

We give each person who needs a transplant the best care possible. Our highly skilled transplant doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners work with many other experts. They include immunologists, gastroenterologists, kidney specialists, radiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation doctors, and social workers.

We understand you may be overwhelmed by the idea of having a stem cell transplant. You may also be worried about the complications of other diseases you may have. For those reasons, MSK offers many resources and supportive care services. They’re available before, during, and after the procedure. They can help you and your caregivers with the challenges you face, and improve your quality of life.

Transplantation is performed in the hospital or in an outpatient (ambulatory) setting. We’re now doing more transplants in an outpatient setting. Your care team will help decide what is best for you.