Blood and Marrow Transplant Research

How Treatment Works Here

The safest, most effective and most widely accepted therapies for cancer become the “standard of care.” For many patients, these are the foundation of treatment. At Fred Hutch, we provide all standard therapies for all types of cancer. 

Our physicians and researchers are always asking how we can make blood and marrow transplant better. Reduce side effects further. And tell each patient, “Good news. No signs of disease.” This is why we conduct clinical trials. Through BMT studies — which we pioneered nearly a half-century ago — we’re able to offer you therapies that are not available everywhere. A therapy that is now in trials may become the new standard tomorrow.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Blood and Marrow Transplant Program had its beginnings in the 1970s, when Nobel Prize-winner E. Donnall Thomas, MD, and his team at Fred Hutch first developed clinical use of transplants.

Today, the internationally renowned physician-scientists at Fred Hutch and UW Medicine join together and continue to lead with new discoveries related to blood and marrow transplant (BMT) — which ultimately creates more treatment options for patients like you. 

When your care team designs your treatment plan, they will look for any clinical trials that might match your situation. If so, your care team will talk with you about whether you might want to join a particular study and why. This can help you make the decision that’s best for you. If you join a clinical trial, you will see the same physicians and nurses as you would for standard therapy.

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas

“Important new developments are showing the way to a further improvement in results so that many more patients with otherwise incurable diseases will have a reasonable chance of long survival and cure.”

— E. Donnall Thomas, MD, 1990 Nobel Laureate

History of BMTs

bone marrow transplant timeline 1957 to 1979

1957 - 1979

1957: First Allogeneic Transplant
Dr. E. Donnall Thomas pioneers the first allogeneic — using cells from a donor — blood and marrow transplant.

1970s: Transplantation Becomes Widely Available
Clinical blood and marrow transplantation comes into wide use during this decade. Because of the toxicity of chemotherapy or radiation, which is required to prepare patients for transplant, BMT is only available to otherwise healthy people in their 30s or younger.

1975: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Opens
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where Dr. Thomas and his team continue to refine their work on blood and marrow transplantation, opens its doors.

1979: First Non-Blood Related Allogeneic Transplant
First transplant involving a donor who was not blood-related to the patient.

bone marrow tanplant timeline 1980s


1981: First “MisMatched” Transplant
The first “mismatched” BMT is performed on Dr. Jerry Liebermann. It’s referred to as mismatched because Dr. Libbermann and his donor did not share the same HLA markers — proteins on cells that the body uses to determine which cells belong and which cells do not.

1986: National Marrow Donor Program® Established
The National Marrow Donor Program receives federal funding to start matching donors with patients.

1987: NMDP Facilitates Its First Transplant
The National Marrow Donor Program facilitates its first transplant by finding a matched unrelated donor.

Late 1980s: Autologous Blood and Marrow Transplants Surpass Allogeneic Transplants
Autologous blood and marrow transplants — using a patient’s own cells — surpass allogeneic transplants — which use donor cells — as the most common type. This remains the case to this day.

bone marrow transplant timeline 1980s


1990: Dr. E. Donnall Thomas Wins Nobel Prize
Dr. E. Donnall Thomas wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on blood and marrow transplantation.

Late 1990s: Non-Myeloablative Transplant Is Developed
Dr. Rainer Storb develops the non-myeloablative transplant, sometimes called a "mini-transplant.” The procedure involves minimal pre-transplant radiation and extends the lifesaving benefits of blood and marrow transplantation to older or more-infirm patients who are not eligible for a traditional transplant.


bone marrow transplant timeline 2000 to 2018


2000: Transplants Become More Common Among Patients 60 and Younger
By this time, blood and marrow transplants in people 60 and younger are common, and age gradually ceases to be a determining factor in successful transplantation over the next two decades.

2001: Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Opens
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance opens with a focus, in part, on bringing promising new treatments to patients faster.

2013: One-Millionth BMT Is Performed
The one-millionth blood and marrow transplant is performed.

2018: 55 Percent of Autologous Transplants Performed on Patients 60 and Older
55 percent of all autologous blood and marrow transplants are on patients 60 and older. This is in stark contrast to the early days of BMT, when transplants were only available to people in their 30s or younger.

Transplant Stories

All news
Be the Match connected a Seattle man with donor in Germany Two years later, he traveled there to thank her in person for saving his life November 6, 2023
Caregivers know compassion is critical; staying organized is, too Two women share tips on caring for a spouse going through blood cancer treatment November 1, 2023
Being your own caregiver during cancer Friends, siblings, support groups and social media can all make a huge difference for patients ‘cancering’ on their own November 1, 2023
For a fourth bout of cancer – of the lung this time – Art turned to proton therapy After three bouts with lymphoma, Art now faced lung cancer. October 18, 2023