Leukemia Patients Report Better Quality-of-Life After Bone Marrow Transplant

Self-reported psychological well-being superior in patients with leukemia after a bone marrow transplant compared with peripheral blood transplants.

Patients who received donor bone marrow transplants self-reported better psychological well-being and quality-of-life compared with peripheral blood transplant recipients from unrelated volunteer donors.

In a large, nationwide study published in JAMA Oncology, there were 551 patients enrolled with leukemia or other blood malignancies who needed a transplant of blood-forming stem cells from an unrelated donor. Patients were between 16- and 66-years-old, and were randomized to receive 1 of the 2 types of transplants.

Researchers contacted participants periodically through a period of 6 months to 5 years after the transplant to assess how they were doing.

“We’re hoping that once we provide information about long-term quality of life and recovery, patients and their doctors can take this into account when they’re planning their transplants,” said lead study author Stephanie Lee.

The results of the study showed that individuals whose transplanted cells were derived from their donor’s bone marrow were more likely to self-report better psychological well-being, had fewer symptoms of graft-vs-host disease (GVHD), and were more likely to be back at work 5 years after transplantation compared with those who received stem cells from peripheral blood.

“Results of the study set bone marrow as the standard source of stem cells for transplantation from unrelated donors,” said senior study author Claudio Anasetti.

Researchers hypothesized, but could not confirm, that these patients had better emotional well-being because they experienced fewer self-reported symptoms of chronic GVHD and fewer side effects from GVHD treatment.

“When both your disease and the recommended treatment are life-threatening, I don’t think people are necessarily asking ‘which treatment is going to give me better quality of life years from now?’ Yet, if you’re going to make it through, as many patients do, you want to do it with good quality of life,” Lee said. “That’s the whole point of having the transplant. It’s not just to cure your disease but also to try to get back to as normal of lifestyle as you can.”