USA Today recently ran an article about how television personality Robin Roberts is helping to improve the visibility of bone marrow transplantation. If you’ll recall, Robin was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, earlier this year. She is preparing for her bone marrow transplant this week.
In the article, SCCA’s Dr. Colleen Delaney, director of the cord blood transplant program here, was interviewed to talk about what a bone marrow transplant is: “a transplant with blood stem cells,” she says.
The better the match between the donor and recipient for a successful transplant the better, but sometimes that’s difficult to come by. Only about 30 percent of patients can find a related family member who is a good match. The other 70 percent go to registries to find an unrelated donor, or donated umbilical cord blood.
Umbilical cords and placentas are rich with blood-forming stem cells. Recent studies show the outcomes of cord blood transplants “are just as good as conventional donor outcomes,” says Dr. Delaney.
Another alternative for people who can’t find a matched donor is now available at SCCA as well and involves haploidentical or half-matched donors who share half of the same HLA tissue type as the person needing the transplant. SCCA’s Dr. Paul O’Donnell is lead investigator of a multi-center study involving more than 35 different transplant centers across the United States that will try to compare the outcomes between patients receiving cord blood and those receiving a haploidentical transplants. Patients who are having difficulty finding matches, especially those from under-represented minority groups, could find an opportunity for treatment that has not been available to them before.
To learn more, watch the Alternative Donor Transplants video on our website.