Stem Cells Replace Bone Marrow Transplants


MIAMI. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Treatment of some blood cancers wipes out healthy blood cells. Stem cells, immature cells that become various blood cells, are needed to replenish them. That used to mean surgery to collect the cells from bone marrow. But now there’s an easier way.

Inside these canisters are frozen stems cells with the power to prolong life. George Schwartz said he’s living proof.

“So far, I’m in total remission, and I’m looking forward to a few more years,” Schwartz told Ivanhoe.

Three years ago, the art restorer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. The only hope was high doses of chemotherapy to kill the bad cells, but chemo kills the healthy ones too, meaning a painful bone marrow transplant.

Krishna Komanduri, M.D. an oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, Florida explained, “We literally had to do surgeries obtaining the stem cells that regrow the blood cells after chemotherapy from the bone marrow.”

Doctors can now push the stem cells from the bone marrow and into the blood where they are easy to collect without an operation.

“I sat in a bed at the hospital, the clinic, and they drew blood,” detailed Schwartz.

The blood containing the stem cells is stored, frozen, in a lab until the patient is admitted into the hospital for chemo.

Dr. Komanduri said, “A day or two later, the previously collected stem cells are infused into the vein just like a blood transfusion.”

Studies show that multiple myeloma patients who undergo both chemo and a stem cell transplant survive longer and without symptoms.

“My youngest daughter got married and I was able to dance with her at her wedding, and now I’m looking forward to her having a baby,” detailed Schwartz.

Schwartz is hoping to watch his grandchild grow up.

Doctors at blood cancer centers are now doing stem cell transplants in patients up to 75 years old. In some cases, the cells are harvested from a family member or from a stem cell registry, instead of from the patient.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Robbi Peele, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Tony D’Astoli, Editor; Andrew Smith, Videographer.




TOPIC:           Stem Cell Transplants Replace Bone Marrow Transplants

REPORT:       MB #4151

 BACKGROUND: Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Normal plasma cells can be found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system. A person’s immune system is made up of several types of cells that work together to fight infection and other diseases. The main cells of the immune system are known as the lymph cells (lymphocytes). There are two major types of lymphocytes and these are T cells and B cells. When B cells respond to an infection, they grow into plasma cells which make the antibodies to help the body kill the germs. Lymphocytes are located in many parts of the body such as lymph nodes, bone marrow, intestines and in the blood stream whereas plasma cells are mainly found in the bone marrow. When plasma cells become cancerous they then produce a tumor called a plasmacytoma which develops in a bone. If someone has a single plasma cell tumor then the disease is called a solitary plasmacytoma but if they have more than one plasma cell tumor then it’s called multiple myeloma. There are different things that characterize multiple myeloma which include: low blood counts, bone and calcium problems, kidney problems, infections, and monoclonal gammopathy, which is when a person has many copies of the same antibody.

SYMPTOMS: Most people who have multiple myeloma don’t often show symptoms but there can be a wide array of symptoms. Here are just a few:

-Bone problems: pain in the bones, particularly in the back, hips and skull. This also includes weaker bones than usual.

-Low blood counts: shortages of red and white blood cells in the body (anemia and leukopenia) causes a person’s overall immune system to become weaker

-High blood levels of calcium: otherwise known as hypercalcemia which can cause dehydration, extreme thirst, constipation, kidney problems, loss of appetite and weakness.

-Problems in the nervous system: nerve damage and hyper viscosity which slows blood flow to the brain causing confusion, numbness, muscle weakness, and dizziness. These symptoms oftentimes resemble those of a stroke which can be very dangerous and even fatal.

-Kidney problems: the kidneys become weak and start to fail which results in kidney damage. Symptoms include weakness, shortness of breath, leg swelling, and itching.

-Infections: affected patients are much more likely to get infections, and their bodies don’t respond to them as well as they used to. Pneumonia is a common infection seen in myeloma patients.


 TREATMENT: Treating multiple myeloma varies for each patient but it is best to discuss it with your doctor/cancer care team as they will know what treatment option is best. These options include chemotherapy, bisphosphonates, radiation, surgery, or a stem cell transplant. It’s important to discuss all treatment options with your doctor because you will most probably have a lot of questions and will want to know which option is best for you, taking into account all the side effects. Other options might include taking part in a clinical trial or considering complementary or alternative methods.


 Patrick Bartosch

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Krishna Komanduri, M.D., director of the Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program

Read the entire Q&A