Why donor stem cell (allogeneic) transplants are used
A donor stem cell transplant can be used to increase the chances of curing cancers that affect the bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma.
It can also help keep a cancer in remission (when there are no signs of the cancer) for as long as possible.
Your specialist may advise using donor stem cells because:
Stem cells from a donor won’t contain any leukaemia or cancer cells.
Donor stem cells contain healthy immune cells that may attack any remaining leukaemia or cancer cells. This is called graft-versus-leukaemia or graft-versus-cancer, and it’s the main benefit of a transplant from a donor.
A donor stem cell transplant can be given at different times depending on why you need it. You may have a transplant:
after the first few chemotherapy treatments when the disease is in remission
when treatment has achieved a remission in a cancer or leukaemia that has come back (relapsed).
The aim of a donor stem cell transplant is to replace your immune system with the immune system of your donor. The immune system defends the body against infections and diseases like cancer.
A donor stem cell transplant is sometimes called an allograft, because your donor’s immune system is ‘grafted’ on to yours.
The main benefits of having a donor stem cell transplant are:
It gives you a new, healthy bone marrow.
Your new immune system can fight any remaining cancer cells.
A donor stem cell transplant is an intensive and complex procedure. It’s carried out in specialised transplant units with specially trained teams.