At the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 73 children have been cured of sickle cell disease through blood and marrow transplant (BMT). As one of the leading pediatric BMT programs in the U.S., we strive to improve and enhance the quality of life for children and young adults with sickle cell disease by offering BMT as a cure.
How does a BMT cure sickle cell disease?
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found in bones that makes red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that helps move oxygen through the body.
Blood stem cells that come from a healthy donor make red blood cells with normal hemoglobin while a child with sickle cell disease makes hemoglobin-S. Hemoglobin S can cause red blood cells to be crescent-shaped allowing them to get stuck in blood vessels and block the flow of blood. This leads to sickle cell complications, such as pain crisis, acute chest syndrome and stroke.
When a child with sickle cell disease undergoes a BMT, he receives healthy bone marrow that produces normal red blood cells.
BMTs are usually given to patients with severe sickle cell disease because they are at the highest risk for disability or death. For a patient who does not have a healthy matched-sibling donor, the risk of BMT complications is higher. Therefore, fewer of these children are candidates for BMTs.
Your child may qualify for a BMT if he has:
- Several episodes of acute chest syndrome
- Severe and/or frequent pain
What are the risks?
The risks of BMT include:
- Rejection of the transplant if your child’s body does not accept the new cells
- Stroke or seizure
- Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) (when the donor’s cells attack your child’s body)
A BMT is hard on patients and their families because it is such a long process. Our team of professionals will work to support your family.
Can research help my child?
Every advancement in curing sickle cell disease is the result of research. At the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, we are committed to excellence and innovation in pediatric BMT and sickle cell research. We work with other research centers around the country and have clinical trials for children who are getting BMTs for sickle cell disease.
Find a clinical trial
Learn more about our research efforts