Bone marrow transplant is done to restore stem cells that have been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. It is also used to treat certain cancers like multiple myeloma, leukaemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, etc. and blood disorders like sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, aplastic anaemia, etc.
There are three different types of bone marrow transplants. When a patient’s own bone marrow is used for transplant it is called autologous transplant. In allogenic transplant bone marrow from a donor is used and in syngeneic transplant bone marrow from a patient’s identical twin sibling is used. Under general anaesthesia the stem cells are harvested from a large bone of the donor/donor site, usually the pelvis bone, through a large needle.
The transplant is a failure if the transplanted cells fail to produce stem cells. Patients may experience varying degrees of complications. Transplant from a donor carries a risk of an immune reaction (graft versus host disease). According to a finding, vorinostat combined with standard drugs given after transplant, can halve the risk of developing this deadly side-effect. After the transplant procedure there is also a risk of infection, anaemia and bleeding. Because of the high doses of chemotherapy involved, bone marrow transplants nearly always cause infertility. But patients, mostly the young, are now often given the choice of fertility preservation before they start treatment.