Leukemia--Chronic Myeloid (Myelogenous) Overview

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Treating Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid (CML) TOPICS

Bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant for chronic myeloid leukemia

Normal doses of chemotherapy (chemo) can harm normal cells as well as cancer cells. A stem cell transplant offers doctors a way to use the very high doses of chemo needed to kill all the leukemia cells. Although the drugs destroy the patient's bone marrow, stem cells given after the chemo can restore the blood-making bone marrow stem cells. This is called a stem cell transplant (SCT).

These blood-forming stem cells can come from the bone marrow or peripheral blood from either the patient or from a donor whose tissue type closely matches that of the patient. For CML, a donor (or allogeneic) transplant is most often used. The donor may be a brother or sister or – less often – a person not related to the patient.

Some things to keep in mind

Before modern targeted therapy drugs like imatinib (Gleevec), SCT was commonly used to treat CML. That’s because before drugs like imatinib, less than half of patients lived more than 5 years after diagnosis. Now, these drugs are the standard treatment, and transplants are being used less often. Still, a SCT from a donor offers the only proven chance to cure this disease, and many doctors will recommend a transplant for younger patients, especially children. Transplant may also be recommended if the CML is not responding well to the new drugs.

For more information on stem cell transplants, see Stem Cell Transplant (Peripheral Blood, Bone Marrow, and Cord Blood Transplants).


Last Medical Review: 02/03/2015
Last Revised: 02/03/2015