For some patients with blood diseases such as leukaemia or lymphoma, an allogeneic stem cell transplant (‘allograft’ for short) is the only option which offers the prospect of a cure or long term survival. In October 2015 the ONJ Centre performed its first allogeneic stem cell transplant.
An allograft transplant is a procedure where a patient is given a high dose of chemotherapy which usually irreversibly wipes out their own bone marrow cells. The patient then has an infusion (like a blood transfusion) of matched bone marrow stem cells from another human. These cells find their way back into the bone and restore healthy bone marrow function. The source of donor stem cells is most commonly from a sibling or an unrelated healthy volunteer.
The patient not only gains new healthy bone marrow but also acquires a new immune system from the marrow donor. These immune cells can help to fight the underlying blood malignancy (called a graft versus tumour effect), potentially curing the disease.
So far nine patients - for whom a transplant was thought to offer them the best chance of long-term survival - have received an allograft at the ONJ Centre.
With invaluable support from RMH with whom this transplant service is closely affiliated, the ONJ Centre was accredited by the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) in June 2015. It is the first organisation to be accredited by the ABMDR in ten years and the first organisation in Australia to be accredited to perform unrelated donor stem cell transplants from the outset (usually accreditation was limited to sibling donor transplants).