Medical Oncology: Bone Marrow Transplant
PLEASE NOTE: Very few veterinary facilities in the United States offer bone marrow transplants as a treatment for animals with cancer. At the NC State Veterinary Hospital, we are not accepting new bone marrow transplant patients at this time as we pause to proactively conduct an external review of the novel program.
Bone marrow transplants can be difficult for already very sick animals, who then also have to spend a prolonged period of time away from their homes. Through this review, we want to carefully understand the risks versus rewards of this treatment. Providing animals with the best and most humane care possible will always be our priority.
How Does a Bone Marrow Transplant Work?
Bone marrow is found within your bones and bone marrow stem cells are the source of all the blood cells needed for life. We can cause these stem cells to leave the bone marrow (with a medication called Neupogen) and travel out into the peripheral blood, where we can collect them using a sophisticated apheresis machine. The apheresis machine painlessly takes blood out of the patient, removes the needed stem cells, and puts all the other blood cells back into the dog.
During apheresis, the dogs are anesthetized so they don’t move around for ~4-5 hours. Once cells are collected, the dogs undergo total body irradiation in an attempt to kill all the remaining cancer cells in the body. This treatment also kills all the bone marrow in the body, which is why we need to replace it with the peripheral blood stem cells we previously harvested. Once these cells are put back into the dogs with an IV catheter, the transplant is complete.
After the transplant, the dogs are hospitalized and monitored for ~2 weeks until their bone marrow is recovered and blood cell counts return to normal. During this time, the dogs are provided with gastrointestinal medications for supportive care and antibiotics to fight infections until their bone marrow takes over. When their white blood cell count is very low, they spend 2-4 days in an isolation ward to protect them from infections from other dogs in the hospital.
Overall, patients tolerate this therapy well, although this is an aggressive therapeutic option with risks from anesthesia, radiation side effects, and infection. Cure has been obtained in 33% of B celllymphomas and 19% of T cell lymphomas, although the dogs should be in clinical remission before the transplant is performed.
Once you have determined the best therapeutic option for your pet, you may work with our oncology team to develop an appointment plan.
Appointments for patients undergoing treatments and rechecks should be scheduled in advanced. You are responsible for making this appointment with the front desk:
- Schedule your appointments at reception upon check out
- Drop-offs are requested between 7:30-8:30 am
- Pickups are requested by 4:30 pm