What Is a Bone Marrow Transplant?

To understand what a bone marrow transplant is, you first need to understand bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue located inside bones. Bone marrow represents a critical region in the human body because it’s where most of the body’s blood cells develop and are eventually stored.

A bone marrow transplant is a unique therapy to treat patients with various types of cancer or even other diseases. According to Hopkins Medicine, the transplant itself involves “taking cells that are normally found in the bone marrow (stem cells), filtering those cells, and giving them back either to the donor (patient) or to another person.”

A successful bone marrow transplant is the process of transfusing healthy bone marrow cells into a person after their own compromised bone marrow has been treated to kill the abnormal cells.

Do bone marrow transplants have a record of success? Yes: Hopkins Medicine states that the procedure has been used since 1968 to treat diseases such as leukemias, lymphomas, aplastic anemia, immune deficiency disorders, and some solid tumor cancer.

How Does a Bone Marrow Transplant Work?

Used as a successful cancer treatment for many years, a bone marrow transplant is a unique procedure in that it can cure many diseases and some types of cancer. It is primarily used when the option of using radiation or chemotherapy becomes too powerful and harmful, risking permanent damage or destruction of an individual’s bone marrow stem cells. In this case, a bone marrow transplant is a treatment option.

According to John Hopkins University, the bone marrow transplant is often used for:

  • Replacing diseased or failing bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Most often, this process is performed for conditions like leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Helping create and regenerate a new functioning immune system to fight leukemia or other cancers that survived the chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
  • Replacing bone marrow that was damaged after high doses of radiation or chemotherapy to treat a malignancy.
  • Fighting the damage caused by genetic diseases (such as Hurler’s syndrome) by replacing the non-functioning bone marrow with healthy, functioning bone marrow.

What to Expect from a Bone Marrow Transplant

With a bone marrow transplant, the process most often begins with high doses of chemotherapy or radiation. This is necessary to make room in the bone marrow for the new cells to grow. In other words, the new bone marrow needs to be placed into an empty bone so the new stem cells can develop and establish a new blood cell production system. After this process of chemotherapy or radiation occurs, the new or treated bone marrow transplant is inserted through the central venous catheter into the bloodstream.

Many people think a bone marrow transplant is a physical replacement of the bone marrow. Instead, it is much more like receiving a blood transfusion. The stem cells flow through the blood stream of the recipient, locate the best place to begin growing and building new and healthy blood cells.

In the post-transplant phase, healthcare practitioners support the patient by preventing and treating infections, as well as dealing with the potential side effects or complications of treatment.

Type of Bone Marrow Transplants

Depending on the health of the donor, there are different types of bone marrow transplants which can be performed to generate the best results.

  • Autologous bone marrow transplant – In this circumstance, the healthy stem cells of the actual patient are removed via bone marrow transplant and frozen. The cells are then given intense treatment and ultimately returned to the same individual as healthy bone marrow and stem cells. This procedure is often referred to as a rescue as opposed to a transplant.
  • Allogeneic bone marrow transplant – This procedure is used when the donor possesses the same genetic type as the patient. Frequently the person the healthy bone marrow is harvested from is a brother or sister of the patient. Sometimes a parent may be the person who is chosen for the closest matching genetic marrow or even someone who is unrelated if the marrow is a strong match.
  • Umbilical cord blood transplant – Stem cells are removed from an umbilical cord right after the delivery of a baby. The harvested stem cells are tested, typed, counted and frozen until they are identified as appropriate cells for a successful transplant. What is most unique about umbilical cord stem cells is that they reproduce into mature blood cells faster than stem cells removed from the bone marrow of an older child or adult.

How Much Does a Bone Marrow Transplant Cost?

Bone marrow transplantation is one of the most expensive cancer treatments, costing an average of $193,000 per patient. However, due to the variety across the types of bone marrow transplants, it’s difficult to predict exactly what a transplant will cost. Bone marrow transplant insurance coverage varies. Depending on the needs of the patient, a transplant can range from $80,000 to up to $400,000 before health insurance.

What Are the Most Common Bone Marrow Transplant Costs?

Many bone marrow transplant candidates and recipients turn to medical fundraising to help cover out-of-pocket expenses associated with a transplant, including:

  • Health insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-payments
  • Medications
  • Transportation to and from transplant center
  • Air ambulance for emergency visits to transplant center
  • Relocation or moving expenses due to transplant
  • Temporary housing due to relocation
  • Mileage, tolls, and parking fees for visits to transplant center
  • Lodging expenses for patient and support person
  • Hospital telephone and television privileges
  • Uninsured transplant-related procedures
  • Living donor expenses
  • Search fees for bone marrow donor match

How Does Fundraising Work?

The fundraising process with our nonprofit starts with a few simple steps:

  1. Complete a short campaign request at helphopelive.org/get-started/apply
  2. We will contact you if community-based fundraising is a possible option
  3. You’ll be paired with a Client Services Coordinator
  4. Your Coordinator will provide you with one-on-one fundraising help, including personalized materials and guidance on how to rally your community, share your story on social media, reach out to the press, plan in-person or virtual fundraising events, and much more

How Is Help Hope Live Different from GoFundMe?

Help Hope Live differs from GoFundMe by:

  • Verifying your medical need for complete donor confidence
  • Enabling donations that are tax deductible
  • Providing one-on-one fundraising help
  • Managing all funds raised to protect your state-based benefits (funds raised are not considered personal income/assets to you)
  • Paying bills directly, allowing you to focus on treatment and recovery

We are a nonprofit with more than four decades of fundraising experience and a 4-star Charity Navigator rating

Does Community-Based Fundraising Work?

Here are a few Help Hope Live bone marrow transplant fundraiser success stories:

“Kate finds great hope in knowing that she and her family are being cared for and cheered on.”

Mother of three Kate Jauch has been fundraising with Help Hope Live since 2010 for the immense out-of-pocket expenses connected with acute lymphocytic leukemia, including chemotherapy and multiple bone marrow transplants. Kate’s campaign has surpassed $30,000 raised, exceeding the Jauch family’s initial $25,000 goal. Funds raised help cover costs ranging from temporary housing and medical transportation to medications and home health services.

“For now, we have such a wonderful positive focus through a challenging time.”

Erin Meredith Cahill-Wetzel is in the midst of rigorous treatments for triple negative breast cancer. Erin and her husband welcomed their fifth child into the world in February 2022 as they recognized the midpoint in Erin’s course of chemotherapy. Erin and her family have surpassed $21,000 raised with Help Hope Live.


Temporary housing
Health insurance premiums
Donor expenses


Ready to Get Started?

If you choose to fundraise with our nonprofit, here’s how the process will look:

1. APPLY for assistance

2. YOU’LL BE PAIRED with a Client Services Coordinator

3. YOUR COORDINATOR will provide you with one-on-one fundraising help, including personalized fundraising materials and guidance on how to rally your community, share your story on social media, reach out to the press, plan in-person or virtual fundraising events, and more.

Need Other Financial Help Options?

For alternatives to fundraising, you can find information on a variety of organ transplant financial assistance options. Please view our  Transplant Resource Directory for insight into sources of direct financial aid, support groups, and other resources for transplant patients and their families.