Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant | Autologous & Allogeneic | MedStar Health
The team from MedStar Health's Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy team.

Stem cell transplantation is a procedure for patients with certain cancers or whose bone marrow does not produce healthy blood cells. Bone marrow stem cells are crucial to our health because they produce the three types of blood cells that the body needs: 

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body

  • White blood cells, which fight infection

  • Platelets, which help the blood clot

Certain diseases and the treatment of some cancers with high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy can damage a person’s stem cells. Transplantation, which replaces the damaged stem cells with healthy, functional stem cells, can be one of two types:

  1. Autologous: We collect your own cells from your bloodstream and store them for transplant.

  2. Allogeneic: We harvest healthy cells from a family member or unrelated donor.

Who can benefit?

Stem cell transplantation is the standard of care for patients with certain types of cancer and blood disorders. 

  • Acute and chronic leukemias

  • Aplastic anemia

  • Multiple myeloma

  • Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma

  • Myelodysplastic syndromes

  • Myeloproliferative disorders

  • Primary light chain amyloidosis

  • Sickle cell anemia

Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy program

Our program is the only adult academic program of its kind in the Washington, D.C., region. This program gives patients access to life-saving treatment options not otherwise available in our region. Our specialists have extensive experience performing this complex procedure. 

We are also proud of our partnership with the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center and the physicians and scientists of Georgetown University School of Medicine. Together, we are able to deliver comprehensive, advanced care to our patients.

We offer:

Program features

  • Dedicated transplant specialists: Our physicians are full-time transplant specialists who have dedicated their entire careers to bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, and to cellular immunotherapies. We offer all of the treatment options available today and can confidently recommend the optimal techniques and procedures for you. 

  • Experienced team: Our physicians have decades of experience performing transplantation procedures, making us one of the top transplantation teams in the region. We translate the latest research into results, leading to improved techniques and outcomes. We combine our experience with the expert team at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the Washington, D.C., region. 

  • Expertise with high-risk patients: Patients who may have been turned away from other programs—due to age, health, or other reasons—often find hope and treatment at our Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program. We are confident in our ability to guide high-risk patients safely through the treatment and recovery process.

  • Holistic care: We know a sickness affects more than just your physical health. Our robust team consists of many different health care professionals, who are here to care for your physical, emotional, and social needs.

  • World’s largest marrow harvesting site: MedStar Health is home to the largest collection site for the National Marrow Donor program, a program started by the U.S. Department of Defense. This gives us an unmatched level of experience and expertise in cell collection. 

For referring physicians: Our staff is available to make the referral process easy. To refer a patient, please call physician access at 202-444-3736.

Fact Gold Seal

Awards and recognitions 

Our program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital has been awarded FACT Accreditation. Home to the nations’ largest stem cell collection facility, is the region’s only adult, Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT)-accredited program for autologous transplant, allogeneic transplant, and cellular immunotherapy.

Clinical trials

Patients have access to clinical trials through the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the area’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center.

Transplantation procedures

We provide the full spectrum of care for our stem cell and cellular therapy patients. We want you to feel informed and prepared prior to your transplant. Our team will take the time to explain every step in detail and answer any questions you may have. 

We tailor your treatment plan for your needs, factoring in your age, general health, and specific condition. Our team will discuss the process for your individualized treatment with you.

Preparation

Your overall health contributes greatly to the success of your transplant. We want to ensure that you are in the best health possible before your procedure. 

Our pre-transplant coordinators and support staff will help guide you through the preparation phase, helping you lower your risk of complications and increase your chances for a positive, long-term outcome. They may recommend some exams or tests prior to your transplant, to treat existing infections and plan for your postoperative care. These include:

  • Baseline tests: We will run diagnostic tests prior to your treatment to give us a detailed picture of your current health status. Tests include imaging scans, a heart evaluation, and comprehensive laboratory testing. 

  • Dental exam: It’s important to treat any sources of infection. Your dentist may also recommend fluoride treatments to prevent decay.

  • Gynecological exam: Women are required to undergo a gynecological exam before transplantation to detect ongoing problems needing treatment. 

  • Dietary changes: During your transplant, you will meet with a dietitian to discuss your individual nutritional needs. 

  • Fertility planning: During consultation, your doctor will discuss fertility options with you and refer you to a fertility specialist or center, if appropriate. 


We will then begin preparing you for the actual procedure.

Stem cell collection

Stem cells must be collected from you (autologous transplantation) or your donor (allogeneic transplantation) for this treatment. We may collect cells from you, a relative, or an unrelated donor. 

The techniques are very similar for both the patient donating for personal use or the donor giving cells to be used by another person. Your physician will recommend collection of these cells either from the bone marrow or peripheral blood. 

MedStar Health has unique expertise in this area. We are home to the largest marrow and blood stem cell harvesting site for the National Marrow Donor Program in the nation. This high volume gives our team a superior level of experience and expertise in cell collection. 

Bone marrow collection

This procedure involves multiple needle aspirations from the hip bones in the back (posterior iliac crests). This procedure is performed in the operating room with anesthesia for the comfort of the donor. 

The procedure is about 1 hour in duration. The soreness after the procedure quickly resolves over the next few days after the collection.

Peripheral blood collection

Apheresis involves removing stem cells (or immune cells) from the blood. Patients and donors will first receive several days of a bone marrow growth factor to “mobilize” the stem cells from the bone marrow into the blood. 

The patient or donor will then donate blood using an apheresis machine. Apheresis requires placement of a needle into each arm for collection and return of the blood. A catheter, or central line, may be placed in order to collect the stem cells if the arm veins are not large enough for the needles. 

During apheresis, our team of dedicated nurses will monitor you for your comfort. Apheresis is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, and you may go home after the procedure is completed.

Am I a candidate?

You may be wondering if you or a loved one is a good candidate for a stem cell transplant or cellular therapy procedure. Only your healthcare team can make the final determination. Our expert transplantation team works with you to determine your candidacy. The evaluation process includes many tests which may include: 

  • Thorough physical examination and review of your medical history

  • Blood tests

  • Imaging scans, including chest X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans

  • Tests to check your heart, lung, and other organ functions

  • Bone marrow biopsy (removing a small piece of your bone marrow for analysis), which gives us a deeper understanding of your condition

  • Psychosocial evaluation

Becoming a patient

You may begin the process by either:

  • Referring yourself directly to our program by calling 202-444-3736.

  • Having your hematologist/oncologist refer you to one of our transplant physicians.

  • For referring physicians: Our staff is available to make the referral process easy. To refer a patient, please call physician access at 202-444-3736.

After the initial phone call, we will advise you about your next steps. In preparation for your cellular therapy or stem cell transplant consultation, be prepared to: 

  • Bring your insurance card and any referral forms or pre-certification information that your insurance carrier requires.

  • Bring a family member or friend to your first consultation. 

Once we have determined that you are eligible for transplantation or cellular therapy, we will discuss the following with you: 

  • The type of transplant you will have: autologous (using your own cells) or allogeneic (using a donor’s cells)

  • How to prepare for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant

  • What to expect during your transplant or CAR T-cell therapy

Patient stories

Our team

Our team consists of highly specialized physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals:

  • Pre-transplant and cellular therapy coordinators, who can help you manage appointments, paperwork, and all of your pre-transplant needs 

  • Dedicated inpatient and outpatient nursing staff, with experience caring for stem cell transplant and cellular therapy patients 

  • Insurance coordinator

  • Social worker

  • Dietitian

Every member of our team is committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to our patients. We have one of the few dedicated transplant programs in the region, giving our team a high level of expertise and experience. Our care doesn’t begin or end with the procedure—we are with you from the moment you walk through our doors and continue to provide services throughout your treatment and follow-up care.

Physician videos