Our patient services coordinators can answer your questions and provide support and education to help you navigate your transplant journey.
For patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a bone marrow or cord blood transplant usually becomes a treatment option when chemotherapy doesn’t work very well and the disease returns.
A bone marrow or cord blood transplant begins with chemotherapy, with or without radiation, to destroy the diseased cells and marrow. The transplant replaces diseased blood-forming cells with healthy ones.
There are two types of transplants: allogeneic and autologous. An allogeneic transplant uses healthy blood-forming cells from a family member, unrelated donor, or umbilical cord blood unit. An autologous transplant uses the patient’s own blood-forming cells, which are collected and stored.
Many transplants for CLL are allogeneic. However, some people can have autologous transplant and experience remission for several years. For many patients with CLL, getting a referral to a transplant doctor early in their disease may offer the best route to a cure or a long-term remission.
Understanding if transplant would help your CLL
Whether a transplant is right for you depends on several things, such as your overall health and the stage of the disease. A transplant doctor will weigh the risk of the leukemia coming back against getting a transplant. A transplant may cure the leukemia, but may also cause other problems.
One way a doctor determines how likely the leukemia is to return is through cytogenetic testing. This means looking at the chromosomesin the leukemia cells. Chromosomes are thread-like strands of DNA that carry genetic information about your body. Certain changes in the chromosomes predict a lower risk of the disease returning. Others predict a higher risk.
There are medical guidelines for when someone should be referred for a transplant consultation, whether or not you might need a transplant at that time. Talking to a transplant doctor is especially recommended if your disease has any of the following features1:
- High-risk cytogenetics or other features
- A short period of remission after chemotherapy
- A poor response to chemotherapy
- Resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs
Transplant has become a choice for older adults, because of a type of transplant that uses a lower amount of chemotherapy or radiation before the transplant. These are called reduced intensity transplants.
1Recommended Timing for Transplant Consultation. Guidelines developed jointly by National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT). Available at: marrow.org/md-guidelines