A specialized technology in common use at Cleveland Clinic is total body radiation. This radiotherapy treatment is often given in the context of a bone marrow transplant, and in the past it has generally involved very high doses of radiation given over a period of days just prior to the infusion of the transplanted bone marrow or blood stem cells. More recently, there has been a high level of interest in the use of so-called “mini transplants" which utilize low dose total body radiation to prepare patients for infusion of a donor's stem cells.
This radiotherapy approach is based on the desire to use the donor stem cells as a trigger mechanism to promote an immunologic attack on the cancer cell population, or as a way to provide a temporary "bridge" for patients whose bone marrow is rejecting a transplanted organ. For these "mini-transplants", the usual dose of radiation is about one-sixth of the dose typically used for conventional bone marrow transplants. The side effects and risks of the total body radiation are therefore much less than one sees in the conventional bone marrow transplants brachytherapy programs.