A stem cell transplant (also called bone marrow transplant) is the infusion of healthy stem cells into the body to stimulate new bone marrow growth. Stem cells are vital to a person’s ability to fight infection. Stem cell transplants are performed on children whose stem cells have been damaged by disease or invasive treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and or radiation therapy. There are two types of stem cell transplant:
We perform both autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplants to treat a range of cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. Learn about all of the childhood conditions treated by stem cell transplants.
All children undergoing a stem cell transplant are given high-dose chemotherapy to make room in their bone marrow for the new stem cells, suppress their immune system to prevent graft rejection, and destroy cancer cells in their body. After this conditioning regimen, they are given a few days’ rest before their transplant.
Like a blood transfusion, stem cells are given to a child through an intravenous catheter. Children are awake through this painless process. It generally takes two to six weeks for the engraftment to “take” and for the stem cells to multiply and make new blood cells.
Minor side effects, such as fever, chills and shortness of breath, can accompany the infusion of new stem cells. More significant complications, including graft rejection and graft-versus-host disease (a condition in which the donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s body), can occur following the transplant. Learn more about what to expect during a stem cell transplant.
Leslie Lehmann, MD, explains stem cell transplants. Dana-Farber/Boston Children's has one of the most experienced pediatric stem cell transplant programs in the United States.
Through clinical trials and research, Dana-Farber/Boston Children's is at the forefront of innovative treatments, including gene therapy.