How your cells cure cancer

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Stem cells are the building blocks needed to create a new immune system

Stem cells are the building blocks of the body. The stem cells from our bone marrow make up our immune system including white cells. These cells play an important role in our bodies including fighting off infections and disease.




A new immune system can kill the cancer

A person with blood cancer does not have a normal functioning immune system because it is allowing the cancer to live in their body. The idea of receiving someone else’s stem cells means that a new immune system can be formed which will hopefully detect the cancer and kill it. The stem cells can also be used to cure many other blood disorders and immunodeficiencies. 

What's involved for the patient?

Basically the cancer patient will receive high dose chemotherapy that wipes out their own immune system so they will have zero white cells. The stem cells from a healthy person is then given so they find their way into the bone marrow to re-build a new immune system and fight the cancer.

How you can donate your stem cells to cure cancer

Firstly you need to join The Registry so you can be searched and potentially matched with a patient need. If you match with a patient, then you will be asked if you’d like to donate your stem cells. Click here to find out what’s involved in stem cell donation.

Stem cells or Bone Marrow?

These different terms can cause confusion and are sometimes used interchangeably. In the past the phrase “Bone Marrow Transplant” was commonly used. Nowadays you may hear it being called a “Stem Cell Transplant” (which is the abbreviated version of "Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant" or “PBSCT”).

This is because of improvements in technology and development of drugs that can safely cause the stem cells to come out of the bone marrow and into the peripheral blood circulation/stream that can be collected and used for transplant (see PBSC Donation for more information). Traditionally the only way to have these cells taken was directly through the bone marrow and that's why it was called a "Bone Marrow Transplant".  

So a peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT or stem cell transplant) is when the stem cells have been collected from the blood stream, whereas a bone marrow transplant (BMT) is when the stem cells have been collected directly from the bone marrow. Stem cells can also be collected from an umbilical cord - all these cells are virtually the same but have been collected in different ways. Most people will describe it as either a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.