Bone marrow, cord blood, and stem cell transplants are effective treatments for people who are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases including many types of cancer. If you have been told you need a bone marrow transplant, choosing Duke as your transplant center puts you in good hands. We are one of the few programs in the nation to use stem cell transplantation as part of the treatment for scleroderma (systemic sclerosis). We also treat sickle cell disease and blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
What Is a Stem Cell Transplant?
Stem cells are special blood cells that are found in the bone marrow. A stem cell transplant can also be called a bone marrow transplant or a cord blood transplant. The terms bone marrow transplant and cord blood transplant refer to stem cells obtained from the bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. The procedure involves the removal of unhealthy blood cells or stem cells using chemotherapy or radiation, and replacement of the stem cells that have been collected from the patient or a healthy stem cell donor.
Autologous Transplant, Allogeneic Transplant, Syngeneic Transplant
There are also different types of transplants.
- Autologous transplant: your own stem cells
- Allogeneic transplant: cells from a related or unrelated donor
- Syngeneic transplant: stem cells from your identical twin
The Duke Blood Cancer Center in Durham is an outpatient treatment center that includes the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic and the Hematologic Malignancies Clinic.
Stem Cell Transplant Process
Your Transplant Team
Your transplant team will include board-certified hematologists and medical oncologists, clinical pharmacists, specially trained nurses, dietitian, and social workers. They meet regularly to discuss your care, collect opinions, and offer the best recommendations for your needs. Your transplant coordinator will facilitate the appointments and coordinate your care. We also assist you in finding nearby housing during your weeks-long treatment and help you navigate through any financial and insurance concerns.
Donor Search, Obtaining Cells
If you are receiving a transplant from a donor, a search to identify a donor will take place on your behalf with immediate family members and the National Marrow Donor Program. Arrangements will be made for the cells to be harvested. If you are receiving an autologous transplant, your stem cells will be harvested and frozen for your use after your chemotherapy treatment.
Chemotherapy alone or with radiation therapy kills any cancer or unhealthy cells in your body. This conditioning regimen also makes room in your bone marrow for the transplanted cells to grow. You receive your stem cell transplant after you complete the conditioning regimen. The transplanted stem cells enter your bloodstream in a method similar to a blood transfusion. Once in your bloodstream, they make their way to the bone marrow and begin making blood cells.
We are one of the only programs in North Carolina where you will receive the majority of your care in our day hospital as an outpatient. This allows you to live in the comfort of your own home or nearby temporary residence. If you are eligible to receive your own cells, you may spend no time in the main hospital as an inpatient. If you receive donor cells, you may spend a portion of your time in the hospital and undergo your remaining transplant care as an outpatient. We are currently leading the nation's first clinical trial to offer stem cell transplant care in the home.
Support for You and Your Family
Before, during, and after your treatment, our cancer support services help you minimize the side effects of treatment and cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. Following your transplant, you will receive supportive care in our daily clinic with medicines, monitoring for side effects, and symptom management. You will be required to stay at Duke or live locally for 30-90 days following your transplant. This ensures a safe recovery following your treatment. You will also be required to have a caregiver with you at all times.
Once you complete your treatment, you will be discharged back to the care of your local doctor. Periodically, you will undergo tests, either here or with your doctor, to monitor your response to therapy and your major organ function.
Why Choose Duke
Duke maintains a well-established program with a long history of success. Here's what you need to know to feel confident when choosing Duke as your transplant center.
We Perform More Transplants than Other Centers in Our Region
We've performed more than 6,000 transplants since 1984 and the first cord blood transplant in 1993. Currently, about 300 blood and marrow transplants take place at Duke each year.
We Are FACT-Accredited
- The Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) conducts rigorous inspections of transplant programs and certifies programs that offer high-quality care.
- We are one of only a few National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, which are dedicated to improving patient outcomes.
- We are part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers dedicated to improving care for our patients.
More Transplant Options for More People
- We offer stem cell transplantation as an option to a broader number of people -- including those who are older or lacking a closely matched donor -- using less-intense chemotherapy regimens and careful selection of donor cells.
- Our researchers manipulate donor blood cells to reduce complications and make transplants available to more people.
- Our research is especially vital in adult bone marrow transplant, as fewer than 25% of adults have access to closely matched donors.
Clinical Trial Access
You may have access to the latest therapies through our innovative research programs and clinical trials, which test experimental therapies and provide new therapies for people with advanced or complex diseases. For example, you may be eligible to participate in a study that is exploring transplant care in the comfort of your home.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.