Bone Marrow Donation Can Come From Matched, Unrelated Donor

Ochsner Medical Center’s Adult Blood Cancers and Stem Cell Transplant Program is the only facility in Louisiana whose program has received the internationally-recognized accreditation by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) for autologous transplant in adults.

“An autologous transplant refers to collecting the patient’s own stem cells which can be used to help them recover their blood counts after high-dose chemotherapy used to treat and sometimes cure their blood cancer,” says Robert V. Emmons, MD, Director of Ochsner’s Leukemia, Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Program.

Now Ochsner is also performing allogeneic transplants, or transplants using matched related or unrelated donors.

“There are cases where we need to go beyond high dose therapy and obtain stem cells from a donor, one who is immunologically matched with the patient, to replace the patient’s stem cells with new ones,” says Dr. Emmons. “These new stem cells create a new immune system in the patient that can attack the patient’s blood cancer. The whole process is called an allogeneic bone marrow transplant.”

“I am so blessed to have been a perfect match,” says an immensely grateful Sally-Ann Roberts, WWL-TV news anchor in New Orleans. Roberts became a bone marrow donor for her sister, Good Morning America news anchor Robin Roberts. As Sally-Ann notes, “Becoming a donor will change your life; it has certainly changed mine. The greatest achievement we can do in life is to help someone, so I strongly encourage everyone who can, to sign up to be a donor.”

Dr. Emmons stresses the same philosophy because when someone is in need, there isn’t much time.

When someone needs a bone marrow transplant, they often don’t have months to wait,” he says. “Hence, the more people who volunteer to be part of the donor registry the better. There are people all over the United States who need a transplant, but they have yet to find a match. Sadly, time will run out for some of them. We’re now preparing to do alternative donor transplants, even using family members who are only a half-match for the patient, in cases where we can’t find a fully matched donor.”

To learn more about bone marrow transplantation, click here.

To register with the National Marrow Donor Program, visit BeTheMatch.org.