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Benefit of freezing stem cells if there is a compatible sibling donor

Benefit of freezing stem cells if there is a compatible sibling donor

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My partner has CML, and is taking Gleevec. His molecular response has been good. His doctor is suggesting he does a stem cell harvest to keep some stem cells frozen for if & when he needs them. My partner has a sibling donor (his sister). My question to you is, what is the benefit of freezing stem cells if there is a compatible sibling donor? Your response is appreciated. 

Answer

Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

There are risks associated with a donor transplant (dependent on several factors including donor/patient match, age of patient, donor/patient status with relation to prior exposure to certain viruses...). Even in the best of situations the risk of life threatening complications is 20%. Many of the risks of transplant are not present when patients' own bone marrow is used. Before Gleevec was developed, there was however, no good way to get patient's bone marrow into remission in such a way that it was possible to routinely collect normal stem cells from the patient. The development of Gleevec has introduced the possibility that MAYBE we can think about doing autologous (self) stem cell transplants using stem cells collected after an excellent response. Although it is true that at this point allogeneic (donor) transplants have been the only ones shown to produce long-term remission, we will likely learn more about the various possibilities in the future. Clinical trials are under development to answer this issue definitively.