Internationally recognized for novel approaches to treating leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma
Published: Feb. 4, 2008
Updated: June 19, 2013
Since bone marrow transplantation was pioneered in the late 1950s, it has rapidly evolved from an experimental therapy to an essential component of many cancer treatment regimens.
The high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy that are needed to effectively treat some types of cancer also damage or destroy other cells. These include the stem cells that reside within the bone marrow, which the body uses to make the various types of blood cells that carry oxygen, defend against infection, and prevent bleeding.
By replacing stem cells destroyed during cancer treatments, bone marrow transplantation restores the body’s ability to produce blood cells and regain the vital functions they perform. Patients can therefore receive more aggressive treatments, and recover more fully and easily than would otherwise be possible.
There are three types of transplants:
The type of transplant you have will depend on many factors, including your condition, stage of treatment, and from which source the closest match can be obtained.
Your Duke transplant physician will discuss these considerations with you, and your team members will carefully educate you on the entire process, from preparation to follow-up care.
Because bone marrow and stem cell transplants are complex, highly technical procedures, they are very expensive. Advances in treatment methods have reduced the amount of time many patients must spend in the hospital, helping reduce costs somewhat.
Many health insurance companies cover some of the costs of transplantation for certain types of cancer. Insurers may also cover a portion of the costs if special care is required when the patient returns home. One of our social workers and financial coordinators can provide guidance in planning for these financial needs and help link you to other resources.
Clinical trials can provide new treatment options for patients with advanced cancer, cancer that has returned, or cancer that has not responded to standard treatment. Your Duke transplant physician will let you know about clinical trials that might be a good match for your medical condition and treatment needs.
Information about clinical trials is also available through the National Cancer Institute’s Web site at cancer.gov/clinical_trials.
Please don’t hesitate to ask us if you would like to obtain additional information that will help you make your treatment decision.