New National Study Shows Patient-Reported Outcomes Better with Bone Marrow Transplants Compared to Peripheral Blood Transplants from Unrelated Donors

August 17, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. – In a new study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers from multiple institutions including Moffitt Cancer Center found that patients who receive stem cell transplants collected from an unrelated donor’s bone marrow have better long-term well-being and fewer symptoms of a common post-transplant side effect called graft-versus-host disease than those whose transplanted cells were taken from the donor’s bloodstream, also known as peripheral blood stem cells.

Stem cell transplants are used to treat certain types of cancer that affect the bone marrow. For patients without a tissue-matched family member, unrelated donors can provide healthy bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells for transplantation. More than 80 percent of unrelated donor stem cell transplants are from the blood, while less than 20 percent of the transplants are from the donor’s bone marrow.

Stem cell transplants are associated with several risks, such as potential transplant failure and the development of chronic graft-versus-host disease during which transplanted donor immune cells attack the recipient’s own cells.

Previously studies showed that cancer patients who received transplants from either bone marrow or peripheral blood had similar rates of survival, relapse, and non-relapse mortality.  However, patients who received bone marrow transplants had higher rates of transplant failure, while patients who received peripheral blood transplants had higher rates of chronic graft-versus-host disease.

This new clinical study followed nearly 200 patients for over five years, and determined if those who had transplants from peripheral blood or bone marrow had better patient-reported outcomes. Patients answered questions regarding different aspects of their life such as their physical, social, emotional, and functional well-being, as well as post-transplant symptoms at enrollment, six months, one year, two years and five years after transplant.

The researchers found that patients who had bone marrow transplants had better psychological well-being and fewer chronic graft-versus-host disease symptoms five years after transplant than patients who had peripheral blood transplants.  Patients who had bone marrow transplants were also more likely to be back at work five years after transplantation compared to those who had peripheral blood transplants. 

Additionally, the researchers report that at a median follow-up period of 73 months, there were no differences in survival, relapse or treatment-related mortality between either group of patients.

“Results of this study set bone marrow as the standard source of stem cells for transplantation from unrelated donors,” said Claudio Anasetti, M.D., senior author of the clinical study and chair of the Department of Blood & Marrow Transplantation at Moffitt.

“We’re hoping that once we provide information about long-term quality of life and recovery, patients and their doctors can take this into account when they’re planning their transplants,” said lead author Stephanie Lee, M.D., M.P.H, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The study was published online Aug. 11 ahead of the print issue of JAMA Oncology and was supported by grant U10HL069294 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

About Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 6 cancer hospital in the nation and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2.5 million square feet to research and patient care. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 5,200 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.1 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube