Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT)

"On any given day, more than 6,000 men, women and children are searching for a life-saving stem cell unit around the world. These patients have leukaemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. For many of these patients, a transplant may be the best and only hope of a cure."

National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)

Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT), more commonly known as Blood Stem Cell Transplantation, is the process by which blood stem cells from the bone marrow, peripheral blood (blood circulating around the body) or cord blood are infused into a patient after giving chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. The older term for this is bone marrow transplantation, but because these blood-forming (haematopoietic) stem cells can now also be obtained from the peripheral blood and cord blood, the term haematopoietic stem cell transplant is now used.

Chemotherapy and radiation while useful in destroying the mutated cancer cells, also destroys the patient's precious stem cells, leaving the patient more susceptible to other infections. Therefore a transfusion of these stem cells, performed after the chemotherapy and/or radiation, will restore the patient's immune system when the stem cells are injected into the patient's body. These stem cells will then migrate to the bone marrow where they will regenerate themselves into specific cells necessary to create a new blood and immune system for the patient.

A well-matched donor is important to the success of a stem-cell transplant. Half of our HLA markers are inherited from the mother and half from the father, so each sibling with the same parents has a 25% chance of matching. It is unlikely that the extended family members will match. According to the NMDP registry, about 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a suitable donor in their family.

Cord blood is one of the three sources of stem cells used in blood stem-cell transplant. The other two sources commonly used are bone marrow and peripheral (circulating) blood (also called peripheral blood stem cell or PBSCs).