Treatments and Services

Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program

What is the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program?

Experts in our Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program care for children who need a transplant of hematopoietic (him-at-oh-poy-EH-tik) stem cells. These are young blood cells that can grow into any of the types of blood cells your child’s body needs.

A transplant may greatly improve or cure diseases such as cancer and blood disorders and conditions affecting the immune system. We do the transplants here at Seattle Children’s, working closely with Fred Hutch, our partner in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)

The Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program is part of our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and the SCCA.

Ask your doctor to refer you to the SCCA or call 855-557-8824 for more information.

Providers, see how to refer a patient to SCCA for transplant.

"Only about 30% of patients find a related donor match. Thankfully, I matched perfectly! We counted our blessings."

– Dr. Rebekah Fenton, who donated bone marrow for the transplant that cured her sister Elisabeth.

  • A transplant replaces the body's system for making blood cells, including cells needed for a healthy immune system. Stem cells for transplants may come from your child or a healthy donor. Your child receives the stem cells through a tube (catheter) into their vein. Cells may be collected from:

    • Bone marrow – the soft, center part of bones where blood cells are made
    • Blood circulating in the body (peripheral blood stem cells)
    • Umbilical cord blood collected after a baby is born (called cord blood)
  • Allogeneic transplants – using cells from another person

    A transplant using stem cells from another person is called allogeneic (a-loh-jeh-NAY-ik). The new cells replace cells that are abnormal or missing because of disease. Your child may need this type of transplant if they have a nonmalignant condition or a cancer that starts in their bone marrow, like leukemia.

    The new stem cells may be from:

    • A sibling or other family member. The transplant has a better chance of success if there is a close match between the cells of the donor and the child getting the transplant. Doctors look for a match of proteins on white blood cells, called human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). Siblings are more likely to be a close match.
    • A volunteer who is not related but whose cells are a close match.
    • Umbilical cord blood that has been frozen and stored.

    Autologous transplants – using a child’s own cells

    In some cases, a child receives a transplant of their own stem cells, called autologous (aw-TAH-luh-gus). Children get this type of transplant if they have healthy bone marrow but their cancer treatment is likely to destroy it.

    Your child’s stem cells are removed before high-dose chemotherapy or radiation. Their cells are frozen and stored. After treatment is finished, doctors return the stem cells to your child's body through a vein. This type of transplant sometimes is called stem cell rescue.

What’s special about the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Seattle Children’s?

Consistently ranked one of the nation's best cancer programs by U.S. News and World Report.Our dedicated and highly skilled team has over 40 years of experience transplanting children and teens, including very high-risk patients. Your child will receive state-of-the-art care from a team that includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists and nutritionists trained and experienced in caring for stem cell transplant patients.

Our comprehensive program helps your child and family:

  • Prepare for a transplant
  • Find a stem cell donor, if needed
  • Go through each step of the transplant process
  • Make the transition back home
  • Manage any long-term effects
  • We work to make transplant an option for more young people and to improve cure rates.

    Some patients are too sick to withstand the powerful drugs or radiation that prepare their bodies for the transplant. This preparation is called conditioning. We have developed better ways to prepare them, called reduced-intensity conditioning. We continue to fine-tune the treatments to improve survival and reduce complications.

    New advances let us transplant patients who were not eligible in the past or who would be considered too high risk at other centers. Some of these options are only offered in research studies called clinical trials. Early in your child’s treatment we work to identify the best clinical trials that can help before or during transplant.

    Advanced options we offer include:

    • Using a new, less toxic chemotherapy drug to get the body ready to accept stem cells. Dr. Lauri Burroughs leads the study.
    • Using T-cell immunotherapy to put patients' cancer into remission so they can receive a transplant.
    • Making transplant available to children who do not have a fully matched donor. This includes using stem cells from donors whose cell types are not a close match, such as half-matched (haploidentical) donors. Drs. Burroughs and Kanwal Mallhi lead these studies.
    • Using new ways to treat the donor stem cells in order to reduce the chance of graft-versus-host disease and the risk of relapse for children with leukemia. Dr. Marie Bleakley leads these studies.
  • The SCCA is a partnership between Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and Seattle Children's. The National Cancer Institute has named our partnership a Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Fred Hutch is one of the largest stem cell transplant centers in the world.

    More than 40 years ago, Fred Hutch pioneered stem cell transplants to treat blood disorders in children. Dr. E. Donnall Thomas led the team of scientists and received a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work.

    See our statistics and outcomes for details on the number of stem cell transplants we do each year and survival rates for children who receive them.

  • Seattle Children’s has many years of experience caring for children and teens with conditions that require stem cell transplants.

    • For patients with high-risk leukemia, our cancer doctors pair up with the transplant team right from the start. Each patient gets a personalized treatment plan.
    • Our Immunology Clinic has over 40 years of experience diagnosing and treating children with conditions that affect their immune systems.
    • We have experts in treating other body systems that your child’s illness may affect, such as the heart, lungs, hormones and digestive system.

    Transplant may not be the only option for your child’s illness. Our specialists can provide a full range of treatments, based on what is best for your child. These include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

    Members of our multidisciplinary team work together before and during the transplant process so your child gets the very best care for all aspects of their health. This continues after your child's transplant. The team follows your child throughout their recovery.

  • We help kids return to a normal life after transplant, with a high quality of life.

    One way is helping children avoid graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after transplant. GVHD happens if the new cells attack the child’s body instead of rebuilding their immune system. Dr. Marie Bleakley works on ways to control T cells from donors so they do not attack the cells of transplant patients.

    Drs. Scott Baker and Eric Chow look for factors that increase transplant survivors’ risk of certain late effects. Their goal is to find patients at highest risk and reduce their chance of developing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

  • We help you fully understand your treatment options and make the choices that are right for your family. Our doctors, nurses, child life specialists and social workers help your child and your family through the challenges of their illness and treatment.

    We care for your whole child. We don’t just treat their disease. Your family will have a full team behind you, with experts in nutrition, pain management, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, palliative care and emotional health.  Read more about the supportive care we offer.

    At Seattle Children's, we work with children and families from around the Northwest and beyond. Whether you live nearby or far away, we can help with financial counseling, schooling, housing, transportation, interpreter services and spiritual care. Read about our services for patients and families.

Conditions We Treat

Your child's doctors may suggest a stem cell transplant to treat some types of:

  • Cancer
  • Bone marrow failure disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Blood cell disorders that reduce a child’s energy and their ability to fight infection
  • Platelet abnormalities, which limit blood clotting and cause bleeding problems
  • Inherited metabolic disorders that can make it hard to turn food into energy
  • Histiocytic disorders, in which a child’s immune cells damage their body instead of protecting it
  • Autoimmune diseases, where a child's immune system attacks their own body

Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Team

Professionals from many fields work together to plan treatment and care for your child. All team members have extra training and years of experience in the special needs of children and adolescents. See the full team at the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Meet our transplant doctors:

Contact Us

Ask your doctor to refer you to the SCCA or call 855-557-8824 for more information.

Providers, see how to refer a patient to SCCA for transplant.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, such as insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.