A bone marrow or cord blood transplant is the only known cure for sickle cell disease (SCD). However, transplant has serious risks and is only used in patients with severe SCD. The transplant replaces diseased blood-forming cells with healthy ones.
The type of transplant used to treat SCD is an allogeneic transplant. This type of transplant uses healthy blood-forming cells from a family member, unrelated donor, or umbilical cord blood unit.
For an allogeneic transplant, a patient gets chemotherapy, with or without radiation, prior to transplant to prepare his or her body for the treatment. Then, the replacement cells are infused into the patient’s blood stream. From there, the cells find their way into the bone marrow, where they start making healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
The entire process, from the start of chemotherapy or radiation until hospital discharge, can last weeks to months followed by many months of recovery at home.
Understanding if transplant would help you or your child with SCD
Our patient services coordinators can answer your questions and provide support and education to help you navigate your transplant journey.
Whether a transplant is right for you depends on several things such as your age, the extent of damage to organs, and the severity of the disease. A transplant doctor can help you decide if a transplant is right for you or your child.
Doctors recommend that patients with SCD be referred to a transplant doctor if the disease is severe. In other words, if patients have widespread organ and tissue damage and frequent pain crises.1 A transplant doctor can explain the risks and benefits of transplant.
1 Recommended 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