Monday, July 22, 2013
Bone marrow transplantation has evolved to be the standard of care for leukemia, lymphoma and several other cancers. When a transplantation uses stem cells from a donor, finding donor cells that match the recipient’s as closely as possible is key. That’s where the experts in the histocompatibility lab (HLA lab) come in.
The HLA lab at City of Hope finds matching stem cell donors for cancer patients awaiting bone marrow transplantation.
David Senitzer, Ph.D., directs City of Hope’s HLA lab. He recently explained the lab’s role and its impact on patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation.
What does the HLA lab do?
Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is a lifesaving and life-altering treatment for patients with malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma. The job of the HLA laboratory is to find the best-matched donor. Matching for the HLA genes ensures a better outcome. The better the match, the better the quality of life for the transplanted patient.
We test potential donors that are related to the patient; e.g., siblings, parents, cousins. If none are found, then we look for unrelated donors. An unrelated donor search depends on the millions of volunteer donors in data banks of bone marrow registries around the world. The registry in the U.S. is the National Marrow Donor Program. That registry coordinates these searches for HLA-matched donors throughout the world.