Bone Marrow Transplant in Blood Cancer – How It Works

Blood cancers are mainly of three types: Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma. In leukaemia marrow transplant, the production of abnormal (WBCs) white blood cells rapidly increases that undermine the ability sof the bone marrow to produce platelets as well as the red blood cells (RBCs). Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer in which cancerous lymphoma cells hinder your immune system. Myeloma on the other hand is a type of cancer of the plasma cells in which the body’s immune system gets weakened and prone to infection.

With advancing technology and newer discoveries in the field of medical science, new treatments are now available to fight these diseases. Bone Marrow transplant is one such treatment and has proven to be a life-saving therapy for patients with blood cell disorders. Dr E. Donnall Thomas performed the first bone marrow transplant in 1956 in New York.

A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure in which a damaged or diseased bone marrow is replaced with a healthy bone marrow. But what is bone marrow? The spongy tissue inside some of the bones in our body, such as thigh and hip bones is called the bone marrow. These marrows contain stem cells that develop into RBCs that are the main carriers of oxygen in our bodies, WBCs that fight infection and platelets that help with the clotting of blood.

How does Bone marrow transplant work?


  • The medical team takes the blood from the donor’s arm using a thin tube and passes it into a machine that filters out their stem cells. This is done a few times until there is enough number of cells.
  • Next, the doctor uses a needle to extract bone marrow from different parts of either the thigh bone or hip bone. This procedure takes about a couple of hours and bone marrow transplant donor sleeps through it. The doctor takes a few RBCs also in the bone marrow extraction process. The recipient gets these cells within a day. In certain cases, the stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta of a new-born baby are also used.
  • Before getting the new cells, the recipient goes through chemotherapy. This process is called conditioning. Conditioning is done so that there is enough space in the recipient’s bone marrow to accommodate new stem cells, to turn their immune system down so that their body does not reject the new cells, and to kill any cancer cells present in the body. This could be a week long process.
  • The stem cells are transplanted within a couple of days of conditioning. The recipient gets the new cells with the help of a thin tube that is connected to a vein in their chest. This vein is called the central line. This procedure takes 1-2 hours and is painless. Once the new cells reach the recipient’s bone marrow, it might take a few weeks for their blood cells count to go back to normal.
  • The recipients are kept in special rooms in the hospital to protect them from any infections. There some minor side effects of the transplant as well. Some of them are headache, nausea, chest pain and fever.

Typically, the recipient recovers from the transplant in three months. However it might also take a year depending on the donor match, the kind of disease and the chemotherapy. I hope this article was helpful for you to understand how the bone marrow transplant works.

Contact US:

Gift of Life Marrow Registry
Address:  800 Yamato Rd suite 101  Boca Raton, FL
Phone: (800) 962-7769