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A transplant is a treatment used to try to cure a variety of cancers. It can involve being given your own or donated blood stem cells or bone marrow, or you can be given a donated liver.

Bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants

Blood and marrow transplants are the treatment of choice for a wide range of haematological, non-haematological disorders and cancers (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma).

The high doses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy that are given before a transplant are referred to as ‘conditioning therapy’. This treatment helps to prepare and ‘make space’ in the bone marrow to accept the new transplanted stem cells. The conditioning therapy can also help to remove small amounts of remaining disease.

The new transplanted stem cells are infused via a drip into the bloodstream. They make their way to the bone marrow spaces where they rest until they start to regenerate and produce new, healthy blood cells two to three weeks later.

The blood or marrow stem cells for the transplant may be ‘harvested’ from you and stored until the transplant, or they may be donated by your brother or sister or someone who is not related to you but is chosen from one of the Bone Marrow Registries. Blood stem cells from the umbilical cords of newborn babies can also be used in these transplants.

You are usually admitted to King’s Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Unit for around four to six weeks for the conditioning therapy and transplant treatment.

At King’s we perform almost 200 blood stem cell and marrow transplants each year. We are the largest centre in the UK for this type of treatment.

The charity Blood Cancer UK has more information about bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants.

Liver transplants

A transplant may be possible to treat primary liver cancer. Your suitability depends on a number of factors, including the type and number of tumours in your liver, your general health and if we can find a donor liver that is a close match your own.

A transplant is a big operation which may last six to ten hours. Your diseased liver is removed and the healthy donor liver is implanted into your body. Afterwards you need to take special drugs for the rest of your life to prevent your body from rejecting your new liver.

King’s Liver Transplant Unit runs the largest transplantation programme in Europe and carries out more than 200 transplants a year.

Cancer Research has more information about transplant surgery for primary liver cancer.