Bone Marrow–Derived Stem Cells May Offer Blood Transplant Recipients Better Quality of Life

Key Points

  • The researchers found no difference in overall survival, treatment-related death, or relapse between the two groups of study participants.
  • People whose transplanted cells were derived from their donor’s bone marrow were more likely to report better psychological well-being others than those assigned to receive the stem cells from peripheral blood. They were also much more likely to have returned to at least part-time work than their counterparts in the bone marrow transplant group.
  • The researchers suspected, but could not confirm, that these patients had better emotional well-being because they also experienced fewer self-reported symptoms of chronic GVHD and had fewer side effects from GVHD treatment. 

A large, nationwide study published by Lee et al in the journal JAMA Oncology found that patients who received transplants of cells collected from a donor's bone marrow had better self-reported psychological well-being, experienced fewer symptoms of graft-vs-host disease (GVHD), and were more likely to be back at work 5 years after transplantation than those whose transplanted cells were taken from the donor’s bloodstream.

“We're hoping that once we provide information about long-term quality of life and recovery, patients and their doctors can take this into account when they're planning their transplants,” said lead author Stephanie Lee, MD, MPH, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She noted that the results would only be applicable to transplant patients who are similar to those enrolled in the trial.

The study also showed that there was no difference in overall survival, treatment-related death, or relapse between the two groups of study participants. Dr. Lee said that this result would reassure the many patients for whom survival is the top concern.

“There are many ways to do a transplant. Choosing a source of stem cells is just one decision. But anything that improves the success of transplant can help future patients,” she noted.

Key Findings

The study included 551 people between age 16 and 66 with leukemia or other blood malignancies who needed to receive a transplant of blood-forming stem cells from an unrelated donor. The patients were randomly assigned to one of the two types of transplants. From 6 months to 5 years after the transplant, study researchers called the participants periodically to assess how they were doing.

The researchers found that people whose transplanted cells were derived from their donor's bone marrow were more likely to report better psychological well-being others than those assigned to receive the stem cells from peripheral blood. They were also much more likely to have returned to at least part-time work than their counterparts in the bone marrow transplant group.

“Results of this study set bone marrow as the standard source of stem cells for transplantation from unrelated donors,” said Claudio Anasetti, MD, senior author of the study and Chair of the Department of Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Moffitt Cancer Center.

The researchers suspected, but could not confirm, that these patients had better emotional well-being because they also experienced fewer self-reported symptoms of chronic GVHD and had fewer side effects from GVHD treatment.

Study Implications

The study is the latest example of the decades of research by many scientists that has continued to improve bone marrow transplantation and related forms of blood stem cell transplantation by boosting the therapy’s success rates and decreasing toxicity.

“When both your disease and the recommended treatment are life-threatening, I don't think people are necessarily asking ‘which treatment is going to give me better quality of life years from now?’” Dr. Lee said. “Yet, if you’re going to make it through, as many patients do, you want to do it with good quality of life. That’s the whole point of having the transplant. It’s not just to cure your disease but also to try to get back to as normal a lifestyle as you can.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


Advertisement

Advertisement



Advertisement