Did you know that anyone at any age has the potential to receive a marrow transplant if needed? This hasn’t always been the case, however. Several years ago, transplant doctors were wary about administering marrow transplants for patients over age 50. That changed when research on the treatment of blood cancers and diseases showed that a patient’s overall medical condition is more important than age alone.
In order for a patient to receive a marrow transplant, the diseased marrow in their body must first be completely eliminated using chemotherapy and/or radiation. Then, the recipient’s marrow is replaced with a donor’s healthy marrow. Unfortunately, due to other existing medical conditions, using high doses of chemotherapy to eliminate the diseased marrow is often hard for older patients to endure.
Despite these findings, there are still preconceived notions around marrow transplants and age. For instance, PBSC transplant patient Bob, diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at age 57 didn’t believe transplant was an option for him. Before receiving a PBSC transplant in 2005, Bob believed he would have better success with other treatment options, due to his age.
“I had read an article, years and years ago, 20 years before this happened, back in a waiting room somewhere, and it put this image in mind that transplants should be avoided at all costs. So I wasn’t thrilled with the idea but said if this is the only way, go ahead,” said Bob.
“I was happy to be in remission and have that as an option but I should have been more aware since years ago when I read the article that technology has come a long way and is much better than it [was] back then.”
During this decade, the portion of transplant recipients older than 60 has more than doubled. Because many researchers and doctors have dedicated time to advancing treatments for older patients, this group of patients continues to be the fastest growing age group of transplant recipients. In 2014, nearly 47 percent of Be The Match® facilitated transplants were for this group of patients.
Through these medical advances, recent research has shown that age should not be a barrier to transplant. Read more about additional life-saving advances in marrow transplant research.