Stem cell transplants are a potential cure for many advanced blood cancers because they replace a patient’s damaged immune system with a healthy one from a donor with a compatible tissue type. The stem cell transplant typically takes place after chemotherapy, radiation or both to destroy the cells causing disease. Dozens of researchers at Fred Hutch are working to improve the safety of transplantation procedures, which come with potentially life-threatening risks, including infection and graft-vs.-host disease, whereby the newly transplanted donor immune system attacks the recipient's healthy cells. Major innovations include the “mini-transplant,” which requires a minimal dose of radiation, and foundational research on donor-patient matching.
Cord blood transplants, which use stem cells from a newborn’s umbilical cord, are a lifesaving option for patients who cannot find a suitable match among family members or from bone marrow registries. Researchers in our Cord Blood Program are working toward improving transplant outcomes and better understanding how cord blood cells take hold in a patient.