Medical Minute 12-12: Half-Match Marrow Transplants

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

"I've always been a fighting spirit and I said this will be a new challenge for me."

His only hope for a cure was a marrow transplant. But like 70-percent of others needing a one, Izzy couldn't find a matching donor in his family. He turned to the national bone marrow registry. But out of 11-and-a-half million people there wasn't a single match. It's something Doctor Ephraim Fuchs of Johns Hopkins University wants to change.

"In the past you had to have a perfect match, otherwise the transplant was too toxic."

But results from a recent national trial show that by giving a patient chemotherapy three days after the transplant, patients can use a donor who is half matched, meaning the marrow is half-identical to the patient's tissue type

"All parents, biological parents are half-matched, all children of the patient are half-matched," said Ephraim Fuchs, M.D., Associate Professor of Oncology.

Treating blood cancer is only the beginning.

"Potentially we could be treating every patient who has AIDS or sickle cell disease or even autoimmune disease."

As for Izzy, his son Alex was a half-match and their marrow transplant was a success.

"The proudest thing he ever done is to give me life."

Now Izzy's cancer free and life isn't half bad.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BONE MARROW TRANSPLANTS: A bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. Bone marrow is the soft, fatty tissue inside your bones. Stem cells are immature cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all of your blood cells. There are three kinds of bone marrow transplants:

• Autologous bone marrow transplant: "Auto" means "self." Stem cells are removed from you before you receive chemotherapy or radiation treatment. After treatments are done, your stem cells are put back in your body. This is called a "rescue" transplant.
• Allogeneic bone marrow transplant: "Allo" means "other." Stem cells are removed from another person.
• Umbilical cord blood transplant: Stem cells are removed from a newborn baby's umbilical cord immediately after birth and stored until needed for a transplant.

A bone marrow transplant replaces bone marrow that is either not working properly or has been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation. Your doctor may recommend a bone marrow transplant if you have: certain cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma; a disease that affects the production of bone marrow cells, such as: sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia, thalassemia, congenital neutropenia, severe immunodeficiency syndromes. (

HALF MATCHES: Half-matched bone marrow or stem cell transplants for blood cancer patients have typically been associated with disappointing clinical outcomes. However, a clinical trial conducted at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson testing its unique, two-step half-match procedure has produced some promising results: the probability of overall survival was 45 percent in all patients after three years and 75 percent in patients who were in remission at the time of the transplant. (

NATIONAL BONE MARROW REGISTRIES: The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) and Be The Match Foundation® are nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating an opportunity for all patients to receive the bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant they need, when they need it. The registry — now called the Be The Match Registry — has grown to 9 million donors and nearly 145,000 umbilical cord blood units, the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse registry of its kind in the world. Since operations began in 1987, they have facilitated more than 43,000 transplants. Today, they facilitate more than 5,200 transplants a year. (


Vanessa Wasta, MBA
Associate Director
Media Relations and Web Projects
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
(410) 614-2916

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