Q: How safe and effective are stem cell transplants?
Although it can depend greatly on a number of factors, such as: overall health of the patient at the time of the transplant; his or her age; the reason for the transplant; and any concurrent illness, there are some base line numbers to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of stem cell transplants. With regards to safety, for an autologous transplant (when the patient is using their own stored stem cells for transplantation), the risk of dying directly from the transplant is about 1-2%. For an allogeneic transplant (when the patient uses a donor), the risk of dying varies between 10% to as high as 30%, based on the age of the patient and donor, type of donor (whether they are a sibling or unrelated), and degree of marrow (HLA) match. Effectiveness is really dependent on the disease type and stage at the time of transplant, the amount and type of previous therapy, and sensitivity of the disease to the last treatment before the actual transplant.