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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Blood Cell Transplant

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General Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the people in need of a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant and the need for more marrow donors and umbilical cord blood units are answered on this page.

  • Transplant FAQs answers questions such as: What is a bone marrow transplant? What diseases are treated most often with a bone marrow donor transplant? How is a marrow donor or cord blood unit found?
  • Joining FAQs answers questions about joining the registry to become a marrow donor. Donation FAQs answers questions about donating bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).
  • Cord Blood FAQs answers questions asked by expectant parents interested in learning about the options for their baby's cord blood.

If your question is not answered here or elsewhere on this website, please send your question to feedback@hrsa.gov.

People in need of a transplant

The need for more donors and cord blood units

Meeting their marrow donor

People in need of a transplant

How many people need a bone marrow transplant?

Each year nearly 18,000 people, age 0 - 74 years, might benefit from a potentially life-saving bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

Estimates of 2012 population demographics were used to determine the number of people needing:

  • Related allogeneic transplants (blood-forming cells donated from a family member)
  • Unrelated allogeneic transplants (blood-forming cells donated from an unrelated donor or cord blood unit)
Need for Related and Unrelated Allogeneic Transplants by Race
White13,800
Black or African American2,400
Asian900
American Indian or Alaska Native200
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander40
Two or more races550
Total17,800

Need for Related and Unrelated Allogeneic Transplants by Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino3,100

Need for Unrelated Allogeneic Transplants by Race
White9,700
Black or African American1,700
Asian660
American Indian or Alaska Native150
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander30
Two or more races400
Total*12,500
Need for Unrelated Allogeneic Transplants by Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino2,200

* Totals do not add up due to rounding or the way race vs. ethnicity and other/unknown/declined answers are counted.

To learn more, see Understanding Transplant as a Treatment Option.

The registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®, is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. The registry is operated under Federal contracts by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP).

How many bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants are performed in the United States?

More than 17,900 bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants were performed in the United States in 2011a.
 

Number of
Transplants Performed
Type of Transplant
 
10,403bAutologous
(the cells for transplant were provided by the patient)
3,114Related allogeneic
(the cells for transplant were provided by the patient's sibling or another family member)
4,421Unrelated allogeneic
(the cells for transplant were provided by a volunteer donor)

To view more data about transplants, see:

  • Transplant Outcomes and Data for reports about patient survival and transplants using autologous, related allogeneic, and unrelated allogeneic donors. These reports use data from the transplant outcomes registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Stem Cell Therapeutic Outcomes Database.
  • Donor Registry Transplant Data for annual statistics showing the number of transplants performed using only unrelated allogeneic donors from the donor registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®.

a. These data are of transplants performed from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2011. These data were reported to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research® (CIBMTR).

As authorized by the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, Public Law 109-129, and the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-264, the CIBMTR provides these data to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as part of the Stem Cell Therapeutic Outcomes Database contract. U.S. transplant centers are required to report data to the CIBMTR for all patients who received a bone marrow, peripheral blood, or cord blood transplant from a related or unrelated donor.

b. Many U.S. transplant centers voluntarily report autologous transplant data to the CIBMTR. Because these data are not required to be reported, this number represents only a portion of the actual autologous transplants performed.

The need for more donors and cord blood units

Why is there a need for donors to join the registry?

Each year nearly 20,000 people, ages 0-74, in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses where blood stem cell transplantation from a related or unrelated matched donor is their best treatment option. These patients have leukemia, lymphoma, or other life-threatening diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

Most patients (about 70 percent) in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on the Be The Match Registry® to find an unrelated donor or cord blood unit. The registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry, is a listing of unrelated marrow donors and donated cord blood units.

Even with a registry of millions, there are many patients waiting and hoping, unable to find a match. Donors of these backgrounds are especially needed:

  • Black or African American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino

The registry is operated under Federal contracts by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP). The NMDP works to increase the number and diversity of marrow donors and cord blood units on the registry so that patients needing a transplant can find a match.

To learn more, see The Need for More Donors.

Does race or ethnicity affect matching a marrow donor and patient?

Racial and ethnic heritage are very important factors. Because tissue types are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Today, there simply aren't enough registered marrow donors of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Adding more diverse donors increases the likelihood that all patients will find a life-saving match.

Donors of these backgrounds are especially needed:

  • Black or African American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Mixed heritage

To learn more, see The Need for More Donors.

Who can use donated cord blood?

Last year, nearly 14,000 searches were conducted through the Be the Match Registry® for patients needing an unrelated donor or donated cord blood unit. These patients were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or other life-threatening diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. (Be The Match Registry is the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.)

When a donated cord blood unit meets the standards for transplant, it is stored in a public cord blood bank and listed on the registry. Then it can be transplanted into any patient whose doctor selects the cord blood unit as the best match for that patient. (Cord blood donated to a public cord blood bank is not reserved for the donor's family.)

Learn about: Diseases Treatable with a Bone Marrow Transplant or Cord Blood Transplant; The Need for More Cord Blood Donations.

Why are racially and ethnically diverse cord blood donors urgently needed?

For a successful transplant, the tissue type of an umbilical cord blood unit or a marrow donor needs to match the patient's as closely as possible. Tissue types are inherited, so patients are more likely to match someone who shares their racial or ethnic heritage. And, patients from racially or ethnically diverse communities can have a harder time finding a match.

Because studies suggest that cord blood may not need to match a patient as closely as donated bone marrow, cord blood transplants may offer hope to these patients. Many more patients could be helped if cord blood is donated, especially from these communities:

  • Black and African-American
  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Hispanic and Latino
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • Multiple race

For more information, see The Need for More Cord Blood Donations.

Meeting their marrow donor

Can patients meet or communicate with their marrow donor from the registry*?

Strict confidentiality standards protecting the privacy of both the patient and the marrow donor are followed by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), which operates the Be The Match Registry®. Considering the NMDP standards, the confidentiality guidelines of transplant centers and donor centers, and the laws and policies of other countries, these are the possibilities for communication between the patient and the donor:

  • During the first year after the transplant, some centers allow anonymous communication. To view guidelines for anonymous contact, see Contact with Your Donor .
  • After one or more years after the transplant, some centers allow direct contact if both the patient and donor have signed the appropriate consent forms. Other centers do not allow direct contact at any time.

The registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®, is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. The registry is operated under Federal contracts by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP).