Music therapy & transplants for children: the latest research & news

With the help of our colleagues at Be The Match in the U.S., here’s the latest news from the world of stem cell transplant research, tackling music therapy, depression in transplant recipients, and transplants for children.
May 20, 2016
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With the help of our colleagues at Be The Match in the U.S., here’s the latest news from the world of stem cell transplant research, tackling music therapy, depression in transplant recipients, and transplants for children.



Can music therapy help patients going through an autologous transplant?

For many of us, music can stir up powerful emotions and help get us through difficult times. Now, music therapy is being used more often to help people deal with the psychological impact of cancer.

Researchers have found that it can improve people’s mood, reduce anxiety and even help in dealing with pain. In a recent study in Germany, scientists looked into whether music therapy can help people who’ve had an autologous transplant (using their own stem cells).

They split 53 patients into two groups – one group had the music therapy and the other had standard care and support. Led by a therapist, the music therapy involved playing music, singing, and listening to music – it was also used as a way to help people talk about their experiences.

When the researchers compared the quality of life of the two groups they found some small but interesting differences. The music therapy patients had slightly better quality of life, less pain and problems with mucositis (painful mouth), and they were less likely to be taking anti-sickness medication.

Although these findings are promising, there needs to be bigger trial before we can say for sure whether music therapy can make a big difference to the quality of life of people who’ve had an autologous transplant.

Find out more about this research.


What makes people more at risk for depression and fatigue after a transplant?

If you’ve been through a transplant, then you may also be living with depression and fatigue afterwards, as they’re common problems.

Doctors and nurses want to get better at spotting which transplant recipients might be more at risk of these side effects so they can give them early support and treatment. In a recent study, researchers surveyed people who’d had an allograft transplant (stem cells from a donor) or an autograft transplant (using their own stem cells) in the past, and asked them about their side effects.

They found that 13% of people had moderate-to-severe depression and 42% had severe fatigue. The authors also discovered that for those who’d had an allograft transplant, women, younger people, those who had chronic graft versus host disease (GvHD) and chronic pain were more at risk of depression.

They found the same risk factors for fatigue, except that younger age didn’t make a difference. For those who had an autograft transplant at a younger age, current chronic GvHD and chronic pain were risk factors for depression and fatigue. The research suggests that depression, fatigue, GvHD and pain are connected.

The authors think that getting treatment for one symptom may improve the others. For example, having well-managed pain may help reduce tiredness and low mood.

Find out more about life after transplant and ways to get support for fatigue and depression.

Find out more about this research.


Transplants are improving for children

If your child is having a stem cell transplant, it can be a worrying and stressful time for you and your family.

You might find it reassuring to know that researchers have found that things are improving for children and teenagers who are having transplants using donor stem cells (allogenic transplants).

Researchers in this study looked back at the results of allogenic transplants for children and adults over 30 years. They found that the number of transplants used to treat blood cancers, bone marrow problems and genetic disorders has increased over time.

More children may be offered a transplant as a treatment option because they’re better able to match them up with an unrelated donor, and because there are different types of transplant available – like ones using stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Doctors also now have the option of using less powerful chemotherapy or radiotherapy before the transplant, which means that it’s safer for children who have complex conditions and other health problems. The results showed that overall more children are surviving, are less likely to die because their condition comes back, and have less complications relating to GvHD.

Find out more about this research.

Read our parent’s guide to transplant.


Read summaries of all the latest research in stem cell and bone marrow transplants from Be The Match, or sign up to receive their monthly e-newsletter for health professionals, Advances in Transplantation