Advanced Therapies for Pediatric Cancer

Following a cancer diagnosis, there are many possible treatment options depending on the stage of your child’s cancer. If your child has received a diagnosis of a tumor, blood cancer, or other blood condition, your child may be a candidate for a stem cell transplant.

At UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, we focus on helping your child become whole again. From a child-friendly treatment environment to post-treatment and rehabilitation services and recovery, we offer the region’s top-ranked services for your child’s needs.

Conditions we treat

Stem cell transplant is an effective treatment for many diseases, including cancers and other blood disorders. The stem cell transplant team at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital offers advanced expertise in treating some of the most complex diseases and conditions that affect your child.

Relapsed leukemia

When initial treatment for leukemia is successful or the cancer is in remission but a child faces a reoccurrence, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant can be a treatment option many families consider. There are several treatments for relapsed leukemia. The goal of transplant is to destroy the cancer cells in the bone marrow using a higher dosage of chemotherapy. This complex treatment replaces the cancer cells with new, healthy blood-forming stem cells. Certain leukemia patients who do not respond to chemotherapy can benefit from cellular therapy. CAR T-cell therapy, for example, helps cure leukemia without the need for stem cell transplant, and it can pave the way for a successful stem cell transplant in the future.


While transplantation treatment can be an option for lymphoma patients, it is slightly rarer. It can be an effective part of a treatment plan for patients who are in remission or who have relapsed because it allows for a higher dose of chemotherapy.

Sickle cell disease

When a patient has abnormal hemoglobin, that often results in sickle cell disease. The misshapen cells cannot carry oxygen as well as healthy cells. There are a number of highly effective treatments for the symptoms of sickle cell disease, but stem cell transplant is the only curative option available. Some patients have been successfully treated with stem cell transplants.

Brain tumors and other high-risk solid tumors

These abnormal masses can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some tumors that are treated with stem cell transplant include central nervous system (CNS) tumors, such as primitive neuroectodermal tumors, Ewing sarcoma, esthesioneuroblastoma, medulloblastoma, atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, and Wilm’s tumor. Patients with these conditions receive their own stem cells, which are collected and frozen, for treatment after high-dose chemotherapy.

Immune deficiency

For children with severe immune deficiency, such as severe combined immunodeficiency, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, or chronic granulomatous disease, transplants work to replace an unhealthy immune system with a healthy one.

Treatments and services designed for each patient

Your child deserves treatment the right treatment. There are several different types of stem cell transplant treatments, and the most effective transplant will depend on your child’s needs. Your child may also need other services such as radiation or chemotherapy. Our team works with you to find the best type of transplant and treatment plan for your child.

Autologous bone marrow transplant

Also known as a rescue transplant, this treatment involves removing healthy stem cells from your child before high-dose radiation or chemotherapy to treat the illness. After treatment, the healthy, preserved cells are put back in your child to regenerate healthy blood cells.

Peripheral blood stem cell transplant

A specific type of autologous transplant, this treatment removes stem cells from your child’s blood rather than bone marrow.

Allogenic bone marrow transplant

During this type of transplant, a donor gives stem cells to your child. In general, the donor must match your child’s genes, so siblings or other relatives can often be a donor. If no relatives match, your child’s team will work with the National Marrow Donor Program to find a matching donor. We can also perform stem cell transplant using a half-matched family member.

Umbilical cord blood transplant

Similar to how an allogeneic transplant is performed, stem cells are removed from the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn baby immediately after birth. These cells are then frozen until needed for transplant. Umbilical cord blood transplant is a good option for children whose disease is more difficult to match because these cells are less developed and can match well with a broader number of patients.

Immune effector cellular therapy

CAR T-cell therapy uses white blood cells to attack cancer cells. During this process, your child’s immune system is reprogrammed to track and kill cancer cells.

Why choose UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital?

We know there are many things to consider when choosing your child’s care. The stem cell transplant program at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy and brings together comprehensive care and an environment that supports your child at every step of the journey.

A multidisciplinary approach, all in one location

Your child deserves coordinated care to match whatever needs arise. Stem cell transplants require coordination among many different groups of specialists. Our multidisciplinary approach brings together nurses, therapists, social workers, and mental health providers to ensure your child will be cared for at every step. All the care your child needs is in one location.

Access to clinical trials

The team at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital works every day to improve care, lessen the side effects of cancer treatment, and create new and better therapies through the use of clinical trials. All of our open clinical trials can be found on our clinical trials website.

Resources for you

Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program

Cancer treatment is a unique challenge for a teenager or young adult. The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program is a joint program between UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center that addresses the individual needs of this older group of patients.

Learn how Carter fought through his leukemia diagnosis

Your child deserves the most comprehensive care, which is why we are proud to offer procedures like bone marrow transplant. Learn how Carter was able to overcome rare leukemia with the help of his care team. 

Health library

Understanding your child’s health is important. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital health library helps to answer some of the questions you have about health care.

Patient Stories

  • Bone marrow transplant helps toddler overcome rare cancer

    Carter Schmidt, photo In May 2017, Tiffany and Michael knew something was seriously wrong with their son. It was determined that Carter had an extremely rare kind of blood cancer called juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) that affects one or two children out of 1 million each year. To save his life, the pediatric hematology/oncology team at University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital needed to find a bone marrow donor. Read more

Locations and Contact

  • UI Stead Family Children's Hospital
    Level 11
    200 Hawkins Drive
    Iowa City, Iowa 52242
    • Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • 1-319-356-2229
    • 1-888-573-5437 (888 573 KIDS)
    • 1-319-356-1616 (Emergency)