Blood and Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplants (BMT) can be a lifesaving treatment for children who have cancer, such as leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as well as disease of the immune system and other bone marrow disorders and some metabolic diseases.

Transplants involve replacing diseased marrow with healthy marrow, injected into the bloodstream through an intravenous tube. The marrow may come from a healthy donor or healthy stem cells may be collected for the blood of the patient.

The goal of the transplant is to replace unhealthy or destroyed bone marrow stem cells with normal bone marrow stem cells from a donor. The transplant is performed following a conditioning regimen that includes high doses of chemotherapy and sometimes radiation. The long-term survival rate varies with disease — from 30 to 70 percent — for children with leukemia. The rates are 80 to 95 percent for children with genetic diseases.

Six Phases of the BMT Process

The BMT process can be broken down into six phases.


When a matched relative cannot be found, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital is a leader in using alternative donors. Alternative donors include matched unrelated donors or partially matched relatives.

Reducing Risks

Although BMT remains the best and sometimes only treatment option for some diseases, it does carry certain risks. These risks include damage to healthy tissues such as the brain, lungs, liver and kidneys. While the risk is rather great with regular BMT, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital has developed novel protocols to minimize the damage caused by the transplant process with:

After Transplant

After bone marrow stem cells migrate to the bones and begin to produce healthy red cells, white cells and platelets. It is in this critical stage that compications of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) may develop. The risk of developing infections lasts for as long as six to 18 months following a BMT. Your child will be followed by the transplant team along with his or her own doctor.

Learn More

If your child is a prospective patient, you can take an online tour of the BMT unit and clinic for a glimpse of where your child will be staying and receiving treatments. BMT recipients also have special dietary concerns that help make their transplants successful. There are also emotional aspects to transplants for both the recipients and their families.

Family members and friends who are planning to visit a BMT patient should be aware of the special rules they'll need to follow.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Blood & Marrow Transplant

Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
1975 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2188
Fax: (415) 502-4867

Blood & Marrow Transplant Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2986
Fax: (415) 502-4867

Patient Experiences

Our Experts

Morton J. Cowan
Dr. Morton J. Cowan,
pediatric immunologst and bone marrow transplant specialist
Christopher Dvorak
Dr. Christopher Dvorak,
pediatric hematologist and oncologist
Robert E. Goldsby
Dr. Robert E. Goldsby,
pediatric hematologist and oncologist
James Huang
Dr. James Huang,
pediatric hematologist
Lena Winestone
Dr. Lena Winestone,
pediatric hematologist-oncologist