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What is donor leukocyte infusion?

Donor leukocyte infusion is the infusion of your donor's lymphocytes (white blood cells), obtained from blood donated by your original bone marrow donor. These donated white blood cells contain cells of the immune system that can recognize and destroy cancer cells.

The goal of this therapy is to induce a remission of your cancer by a process called the graft-versus-tumor effect (GVT). The donor T-cells can attack and control the growth of residual cancer cells providing the GVT effect. It is hoped that the donor leukocyte infusion will cause GVT and lead to a remission of your cancer.

Your donor will be contacted to begin the collection process, which can be like the original bone marrow donation process. After these cells are collected, they will be infused.

You might require standard chemotherapy to reduce the amount of cancer you have prior to your donor lymphocyte infusion. Following your donor lymphocyte infusion, you will be continually monitored.

Why is a donor leukocyte infusion needed?

Over the past 25 years, bone marrow transplantation has increased cure and long-term survival rates for patients diagnosed with leukemia and other blood disorders. Nonetheless, many patients who successfully weather the risks and complications of a BMT later relapse.

Formerly, the only treatment option that offered relapsed bone marrow transplant (BMT) patients hope of a cure was another bone marrow transplant. However, the risk of serious, life-threatening complications after a second BMT is great.

The donor leukocyte infusion is one strategy of managing relapse that might eliminate the need for a second BMT in some patients.