For people with certain hematologic (blood) cancers — such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma — a bone marrow transplant (BMT) can be lifesaving. The procedure takes healthy stem cells from blood or bone marrow to help replace your weak immune system with a healthy one.
At UCLA Health’s Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant & Cellular Therapies Program, our expert team has been performing stem cell transplant since 1973. We continue to use the most advanced treatments available to help maximize your chance for a successful outcome.
Who is a candidate for bone marrow transplant?
BMT is a way to eliminate blood cancer or bone marrow cancer and regenerate healthy cells. Because of this treatment, survival rates for these cancers have increased dramatically. A bone marrow transplant offers hope for people with conditions such as:
- Sickle cell disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Aplastic anemia
If your doctor believes you may be a candidate for a bone marrow transplant, our team will evaluate you thoroughly. We’ll also review the risks, benefits and potential side effects. Some possible complications of BMT can be serious, including:
- Infections: Viral and fungal infections can cause organ damage and even be life-threatening.
- Graft failure: Sometimes the healthy stem cells don’t take hold after transplant.
- Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD): In some cases, newly transplanted stem cells react against your body, attacking your organs.
How does bone marrow transplant work?
The goal of bone marrow transplant is to transfer healthy stem cells into a person with cancer. Transplant happens after we treat the unhealthy bone marrow with high doses of chemotherapy or radiation to kill the cancer cells.
The time leading up to your BMT may take weeks or even months. Find out more about preparing for bone marrow transplant.
During this period:
- Donor: Your transplant team will locate a donor who is the best match for you.
- Conditioning: You will be admitted to the hospital for your conditioning treatment. Conditioning includes several rounds of chemotherapy, full-body radiation or both to kill off the cancerous cells.
- Transplant: After conditioning, you will be ready for the transplant itself. We transfer the healthy stem cells through a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) that goes into a blood vessel in your chest. This infusion of new cells can take several hours. You will be awake during the procedure. We will monitor you throughout the procedure for side effects such as fever, chills, hives or chest pain.
- Recovery: If the transplant is successful, your body will start producing new stem cells. Gradually, you will regenerate a new immune system. During this time, you will be very susceptible to infection. You will need to limit your contact with people to stay protected from germs.
Your bone marrow may begin making new cells within 30 days of treatment. But it may take many months for your immune system to recover fully. Read more about recovery from bone marrow transplant.
Adult bone marrow transplant: The UCLA difference
When you choose UCLA Health, you can trust that you are in the hands of one of the country’s most expert teams.
Our Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant & Cellular Therapies Program has performed well over 5,000 BMT procedures. That high patient volume means that our team has the experience to treat complex cases successfully. Our program also offers:
- Integrated care: Your team will include specialists from across UCLA Health. That means that you can get all the care you need — including cancer treatment, bone marrow transplant and management of any related conditions — in one place.
- Most advanced therapies: Our team performs a variety of stem cell transplants including:
- Autologous transplants, which harvest, freeze and then re-infuse a patient’s own stem cells.
- Allogeneic transplants, using stem cells from a related or unrelated bone marrow donor.
- Cord blood transplants, using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood.
- CAR T-cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy that uses your own engineered (modified) T cells to fight cancer. This type of treatment is also called gene-therapy-modified hematopoietic transplant. Scientists modify genes in the lab and then replace those genes into your body to fight disease. Find out more about CAR T-cell therapy.
- Dedicated care team: From the moment you enter our program, you will have a team of physicians, a nurse coordinator, and social and emotional support professionals to assist you. They will be with you every step of the way, providing care and support.
- Access to clinical trials: Our physicians are active in clinical trials in all areas of hematologic cancer treatment. After your initial evaluation, your care team will discuss whether you are a candidate for one of our current clinical trials.
To make an appointment with our Adult Blood and Bone Marrow & Cellular Therapies Program, please call 310-206-6909.