There are different types of stem cell or bone marrow transplant. They are different because they involve getting the stem cells from different sources.
Your donor stem cells could come from:
These are all types of allogeneic of allograft stem cell transplant.
Doctors can also use your own stem cells – this is called an autograft or autologous stem cell transplant.
What type of transplant you have will depend on your disease or condition, your health, and whether there is a donor who is a match for you.
Find out more about:
This means that you’ll have a transplant using stem cells donated from a stranger whose tissue type matches yours.
If you don’t have the option of a sibling match, and your transplant centre feels that an unrelated donor transplant is a suitable option for you, they’ll get in touch with Anthony Nolan.
We’ll search for a match, checking all the registered donors in the UK; we can also look for donors who are available for you internationally. Find out more about how we search for an unrelated donor.
You have a 30 % chance of having the same tissue type as your sibling and they could be your donor. This is because we inherit our tissue types from both of our parents. So if you do have any brothers or sisters, your transplant team will normally ask them if they would like to be tested first.
If they’re a match and want to go through with donating, your transplant centre will arrange a ‘donor assessment’ and medical screening to make sure they’re fit and well enough to donate.
The next step will be to book a date for the donation and transplant process.
Most siblings donate their stem cells in a process called peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC). Some donate their bone marrow, which requires a general anaesthetic to minimise discomfort during the procedure.
Having a sibling transplant can bring up lots of different emotions for everyone involved. Make sure you speak to your transplant team about any concerns you or your family have. You can also get further support from us, or find out more about getting support if you're a family member.
Read our booklet Donating to your relative for more information on the matching and donation process for siblings and other relatives.
If you’re having an autologous or autograft transplant, doctors use your own stem cells, collected while you’re in remission from your original cancer or condition.
An autologous stem cell transplant allows doctors to give you very high doses of chemotherapy and or radiotherapy to treat your condition – you might hear this called high dose therapy.
This therapy causes damage to your bone marrow and immune system, but the transfusion of your own stem cells back into your blood allows your immune system to recover. The stem cells move back into your bone marrow where they start making new blood cells.
An autologous transplant could be a treatment option for you if:
Cord blood is often used if you don’t have a sibling match and doctors can’t find you a matched unrelated donor.
Cord blood does not need to be as well matched with you compared to other sources of stem cells, so it can be easier to find a suitable cord. Cord blood units are only matched at 8 HLA sites and can be accepted with 1, 2 or even 3 mismatches.
An umbilical cord connects a baby in the womb to the placenta. The placenta and umbilical cord are a rich source of stem cells. Cord blood is collected when a baby is born.
Once a baby has been safely delivered, the mother delivers the placenta, and the cord is cut and the stem cells can be collected. This is a completely safe procedure for the mother and the baby.
The blood is taken to a cord bank, where it can be frozen for a number of years. When someone like you needs a transplant, we’ll test your tissue to see if it matches any of the cords in our bank, and also search a worldwide cord blood bank registry.
Cord blood does not need to be well matched to your tissue type compared to other sources of stem cells, so it can be easier to find a suitable match.
A haploidentical transplant involves using stem cells from a family member whose tissue type or HLA is half matched to yours. Parents are always a half-match for their children, and vice versa. Siblings have a one-in-two chance of being a half-match for each other.
This means that you have a greater choice of potential donors - almost all people have at least one potential haploidentical match in their family.
Haploidentical transplants are becoming more common but they won’t be an option for everyone. Speak to your transplant team for more information.