PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- When seeking bone marrow donors for blood cancer patients, doctors look for a perfect match among siblings or family members -- a match that does not always exist.
Researchers found that half-match donor recipients can do as well as full-match recipients in what is being billed as the first "apples-to-apples" comparison of the two donor types.
"The field has debated whether the differences in outcomes between full and partial matches were caused by the quality of the match or by all the procedures the patient goes through before and after the donor cells are administered," said Dr. Neal Flomenberg, chair of the medical oncology department at Thomas Jefferson University, in a press release. "We haven't had a clear answer."
Researchers compared the three-year outcomes for 77 patients who received transplants of blood-generating stem cells, 50 of whom had half-matched donors and 27 with full matches.
Researchers also employed a two-step transplantation process, with patients first receiving T cells and the drug cyclophosphamide, so the immune cells can fight cancer without overreacting. The stem cells were then transplanted to the patient.
Rather than extracting stem cells from donor's bone, which is painful and can be difficult, researchers instead harvest stem cells from the donor's blood. This allows for more control of the how many immune cells enter the recipient's body.
Just under 70 percent of patients in both groups were alive and cancer-free three years after the transplants, researchers reported.
"The results of the current study are certainly encouraging, and suggest that outcomes from a half-matched related donor are similar to fully matched donors," said Dr. Sameh Gaballa, a researcher and assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University. "It might be time to reassess whether half-matched related transplants can be considered the best alternative donor source for patients lacking a fully matched family member donor."
The study is published in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.