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 percent to 70 percent — for children with leukemia. The rates are 80 percent 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 is 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 the following:

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

Blood & Marrow Transplant Clinic
1975 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2584
Fax: (415) 353-2600

Patient Experiences

  • Lavinia Epps
    Teen Inspired to Share Her Bone Marrow Transplant Experience
  • Marcus Espino
    Bone Marrow Transplants Save Boy with Hurler's Syndrome
  • Vann Hale
    Unrelated Marrow Donor Saves Youngster's Life
  • Melissa Macalisang
    Father Donates Marrow to Save Young Daughter's Life

Our Experts

Jason Bloom
Jason Bloom,
financial case manager
Morton Cowan
Dr. Morton Cowan,
pediatric bone marrow transplant surgeon
Christopher Dvorak
Dr. Christopher Dvorak,
pediatric blood disorders specialist
Robert Goldsby
Dr. Robert Goldsby,
pediatric cancer specialist
Biljana Horn
Dr. Biljana Horn,
pediatric bone marrow transplant specialist
James Huang
Dr. James Huang,
pediatric blood disorders specialist
Hannah Saffold
Hannah Saffold,