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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation

How do pediatric stem cell transplants work, what types are available, and when is the therapy recommended? John M. Cunningham, MD, an internationally known authority on pediatric stem cell transplantation, provides an overview and talks about the special expertise available at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital pediatric stem cell transplant service has extensive experience in stem cell transplants for children of all ages -- from infancy through young adulthood. This life-saving treatment is used for some patients with blood diseases, certain types of cancer, immune system disorders or genetic diseases.

Stem cell transplantation (also referred to as bone marrow transplantation or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) treats serious diseases through a process that destroys the patient’s damaged immune system and replaces it with healthy stem cells. (Blood stem cells -- regenerative cells that become red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or plasma cells -- are an integral component of a person’s immune system.) The new stem cells restore the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, thus creating a new immune system in the patient’s body.

Why Choose Us?

First in Chicago

The University of Chicago was the first hospital in the Chicago area to offer a pediatric bone marrow transplant program more than 20 years ago. Experience, scientific study and innovations continue to add to the applications for this treatment and to the steadily increasing survival rates.

Nationally Recognized Experts

Our experts are nationally recognized leaders in the research and development of novel uses for this life-saving treatment. For example, we are now offering a new technique that refines blood stem cell grafts from parents, making them suitable donors for their own children. This unique approach couples state-of-the-art stem cell purification technologies with novel chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy regimens to reduce toxicity, while ensuring long-term graft viability and a reduction in the incidence of disease relapse. 

New purification technique expands donor pool to include parents.

In children with leukemia and other malignant diseases, the latter complication is treated by a combination of changes in immune suppression medications and infusion of selected cell populations that target the malignant cells.

Large, Experienced Program

The pediatric stem cell transplant program is a joint program with the adult stem cell transplant program at the University of Chicago. We are national leaders in transplant for leukemia, lymphoma and non-malignant diseases. With more than twenty transplant physicians and a combined 200 years of expertise, we have the largest, most experienced stem cell transplant program in Chicago. The shared programs perform more than 170 transplants per year.

Accredited Program

Our program is an accredited member of the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) and is a member of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR); the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT); the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Transplant Center; and the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium (PBMTC). Participation in these organizations gives our program – and our patients – access to the latest findings and treatments in the area of stem cell transplantation.