St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Patient Information Sessions.

At these quarterly sessions for patients and carers you’ll get to hear first-hand about the transplant process and have all your questions answered by a full team of specialists. These excellent sessions include a bone marrow transplant co-ordinator, transplant nurse, social worker, nutritionist, pharmacist, and a transplant doctor.

You’ll also have the opportunity to tour both the outpatient clinic and the transplant ward at St Vincent’s and to meet and speak with a former patient.

These sessions are hosted by the haematology department at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and proudly sponsored by Arrow. For more information contact us 02 8398 8149 or

Patient Information Guides

In 2005, we funded the production of three patient information guides on allogeneic, autologous and paediatric transplantation, explaining the transplant process and what to expect before, during and after treatment.

The guides were created in partnership with the Blood and Marrow Transplant Network NSW.

For copies of these guides phone 02 9464 4666 or visit:

Disease Information

A basic introduction to the most common treatments for leukaemia and other serious blood diseases.

You can find more information in these handy patient information guides or on these useful websites.

The Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry also provides comprehensive and detailed information for prospective donors interested in joining the registry.

Leukaemia and Transplantation

There are many types of treatment for leukaemia and what you can expect will depend on the variety of disease being treated and whether the patient is an adult or a child.

This information is only a simple guide, to give you an overview of the most common treatments for leukaemia and other serious blood diseases. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about your specific treatment.


Chemotherapy is the use of cell-killing (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy malignant leukaemia cells. Unfortunately, the drugs do not only attack the malignant cells, and many of the drugs have side effects as normal tissue is also affected. These side effects can be severe, but most are temporary.

Usually, the first treatment for acute leukaemia is a combination of anti-cancer drugs intended to induce complete remission. The choice of drugs and the timing of treatment will vary, and drugs may be used alone or in combination.

Once the leukaemia is in remission, more courses of cytotoxic drugs may be given as ‘maintenance’ treatment – sometimes for months or even years. If ongoing drug therapy is not successful then other forms of treatments may be required, including a bone marrow transplant.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. Radiotherapy is often used when the disease is confined to one area of the body – which is sometimes the case in lymphomas.

Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Collection

The terms ‘bone marrow transplant’ and ‘stem cell transplant’ refer to the same medical process – the difference between them is the way the cells are collected:

  • Bone marrow harvest takes place in the operating theatre, with stem cells being collected from hip bones under general anaesthetic.
  • Peripheral blood stem cells are harvested on a cell separator machine after the patient or donor has been given growth factor injections.

Transplants aim to replace leukaemic cells in the patient’s bone marrow with healthy cells. These transplants can be:

  • Allogeneic, where another person (usually a matched donor or sibling) supplies marrow or stem cells.
  • Autologous, where the patient’s own stem cells and/or marrow are harvested and then returned following chemotherapy. Autologous cells are collected when the patient has achieved remission.
Transplant Process

As the first step, the patient will be given high-dose chemotherapy or chemo-radiation, to destroy their existing marrow cells and treat the underlying disease. The new cells will then be infused, to reconstitute the patient’s blood and immune systems.

Allogeneic transplants are where the cells come from another person. In 30 per cent of cases, a sibling of the patient is found to be suitably matched. In 70 per cent of cases, donor registries worldwide can be searched to find a matched, unrelated donor.

The Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) has over 100,000 potential unrelated donors registered.

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