ABOUT STEM CELL TRANSPLANTS
Susan Brecker’s heartfelt plea elicited
an outpouring of support for Michael — and an outpouring of questions.
As there is outdated and conflicting information on the web concerning
the stem cell transplant process that can assist Michael and so many
others, we assembled a list of frequently asked questions — a hybrid
of material found throughout the web in addition to new information.
Before contacting Michael’s management office with your questions,
please review the following. Thank you for your support!
Q01: What is a bone marrow or blood stem cell
A: It’s a potentially life-saving treatment for patients with MDS,
leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases. The transplanted healthy
stem cells from a donor replace a patient's unhealthy blood cells that
have been destroyed by chemotherapy.
Q02: Are these the same stem cells about
which there exists so much controversy?
A: No. Those are embryonic stem cells---which are completely undifferentiated.
Donors would be providing blood stem cells where the extent of differentiation
is only the specific type of blood cell that will form.
Q03: Does my blood type matter?
A: Not at all. The testing is for genotype (tissue type) and not
Q04: Who can be tested?
A: Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60, in good general
health and be free of chronic diseases. For example, volunteers with
serious asthma, Hepatitis B or C or most forms of cancer (regardless
of whether in remission) cannot be accepted.
Q05: What is the procedure?
A: Testing only takes a couple of minutes and, at worse, is as painless
as giving blood. Blood is drawn for testing and a consent form is filled
out. In some instances, a buccal swab (a sterile Q-tip which is rubbed
along the wall of your inner cheek to collect cells) is used.
Q06: Does a person's race or ethnicity
A: Because tissue type is inherited, patients are most likely to
match someone of their same race and ethnicity. There is a special need
to recruit more donors who are, for example, African Americans, Native
Americans, European Jews, Armenians, Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Asians,
Hispanics and Latinos. The reason why there are greater number or donors
needed for these groups is as a result of either purges of the population
(genocide, etc.) and/or relatively few people in the group in the international
registry. A match for Michael would be most likely come from those of
Eastern European Jewish descent.
Q07: Where do I go to get tested?
A: Contact the NY Blood Bank [212-570-3441 / 310 East 67th Street]
and make an appointment for HLA typing. If you’re not in NY, go
to www.marrow.org or call 1-800-MARROW-2 to find the donor center nearest
you. Marrow.org will assist donors who wish to join the national registry.
We hope that you will join the national registry, however, if you do
not wish to join the registry [see Q13] or it’s difficult to make
it to a blood center, private kits are available from Tepnel Life Codes
[800-915-3695]. Order the “HLA [A][B][DR]” kit for $140.
You will need to have a small vial of blood drawn. Indicate to Tepnel
that your test is for “Michael Brecker” and they will know
to whom to forward your results.
Q08: How much is the testing and who pays
A: The test generally cost $40 to $95 depending on the donor center
and the laboratory that completes the test. Testing at the New York Blood
Center is just $40. However, if you’re African American,
Hispanic, Native American or Asian testing is free at any donor center
that’s part of the National Marrow Donor Program network [800-MARROW-2].
More than 100 centers throughout the country—including the New
York Blood Center are part of the network. Following the initial testing,
all medical expenses are paid for by the patient or the patient’s
Q09: What is the test for?
A: The test is to determine whether a tissue-type match exists
between the donor and the patient. More specifically, potential donors
[and the patient] are given an HLA or Human Leukocyte Antigen test. Antigens
are found on the surface of infection-fighting white blood cells (leukocytes).
A match between specific donor and recipient antigens is critical to
having a successful transplant (i.e., where the two immune systems will
not go to war with one another). Should you see your HLA results, the
numbers indicated are the identifying gene-pair markers (alleles) that
are responsible for your “A” antigen, for example, to be
different than someone else’s “A” antigen. In the fortuitous
event you’re deemed a good match after three specific antigens
are compared, you will be asked for a second blood test.
Q10: What are the chances of my being
A: As you might imagine, given the number of genes that need to
match, the overall chances are quite low...but the more people tested,
the more likely there will be a perfect match awaiting everyone.
Q11: Has Michael’s family been
A: Yes, both his siblings and children---none match. There is also
a rumor afloat [04AUG] that a match has been found for Michael....regrettably,
this is inaccurate.
Q12: How are patients actually matched
A: The results of blood samples from donors or umbilical cord blood
units [see Q17] are added to different registries. The registries are
then searched for a donor whose tissue type matches that of their patient.
Q13: Can I be tested to be a donor only
A: Yes, but on behalf of Michael, we hope that you would not embrace
this alternative. Explains Michael, “I hope to encourage as many
people as possible to get tested not just to assist me, but to help thousands
of others who are either facing or who will be facing the same challenge
with which I’m now confronted.” Should you nonetheless
wish to make a donation only for Michael, private kits are available
from Tepnel Life Codes [see Q07].
Q14: Is there a difference between a
bone marrow transplant and blood stem cell transplant?
A: Yes…and no. As a result of new technologies, the term “bone
marrow transplant” is in part a misnomer. In earlier years marrow
had be extracted from a donor’s marrow. Today at leading cancer
centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering, the collecting process rarely
occurs this way. A donor is simply connected to a machine through an
IV that separates and harvests the blood stem cells from the donor’s
blood before the blood returns to the donor through a second IV. Instead
of being tethered to a machine for a few hours, some folks still prefer
direct marrow collection---where medical technology has also improved.
Following anesthesia, marrow—-which continually replenishes every
4-6 weeks---is withdrawn using fine hollow needles in the pelvis. A sore
bottom may result for a few days. In short, whatever the brief discomfort
of whichever method that’s used—it’s nothing compared
to the virtue and humanity of potentially saving a life.
Q15: Can I take my name of the donor registry
at any time?
A: Yes, being on the registry just means that you may be asked
to be a donor. It is strongly preferred, however, that you remove your
name from the registry if you feel you may be disinclined to be a donor.
Nothing may be as heartbreaking as someone having to learn that there
exists a perfect match to save the life of a loved one…and the
donor changed their mind about being a donor. Being a donor is not deleterious
to your health. While we hope that you become a donor, please do not
add your name to any donor registry if you’re not prepared to step-up
when the opportunity presents itself.
Q16: If I am a match, who pays for the necessary
A: If you are a match, the patient's insurance pays for the entire
procedure---there is no cost to you. This includes the cost of the physical
you will receive to ensure that you’re in good health.
Q17: I’ve heard about “cord
donations” and stem cells from umbilical cords—what’s that?
If you or anyone you know is having a child, inform the obstetrician
that you would like the umbilical cord to be delivered to a cord blood
bank where it is tested and where the blood stem cells are frozen for
future use in the event of a match. The collection does not pose any
health risk to the mother or baby and does not affect the birth process
in any way. The cord would otherwise simply be disposed of.
For further information on donating umbilical cord donations:
For ordering a private HLA kit:
For further information on , or whether you qualify as a donor:
sure to see all links at the bottom of this page!!!)
For learning where to get tested at a National Marrow Donor Program
Join The Registry!!!... Please!!!!(see Learn More section at the bottom
of this link)
Back to ARKADY.COM HOME MICHAEL BRECKER - NEWS UPDATE ORIGINAL POETRY MUSIC
Miss you Michael...
you fought hard...
thanks for letting me help...