7 things sarcoma patients should know about allografts

For Ewing’s sarcoma and other types of sarcomas, treatment can sometimes include surgery to remove a tumor. That can also mean removing part — or even all — of the bone it’s attached to. Options for replacing a lost bone include metal implants called endo-prostheses, autografts (bones that come from the patients themselves) and allografts (bones from donors). Here, Justin Bird, M.D., shares seven things he wants you to know about allografts. Where does MD Anderson get the donor bones for its allografts? There are a few companies that source specimens, prepare them for use, and make them available to doctors and hospitals. Do the bones come from people who have donated their bodies to science? No. They come from organ donors. Tissue banks are able to use many different types of donated organs, including bones, for transplants. Does a patient’s blood type have to match the donor’s in order to receive an allograft? No. All living cells are removed from the bones before they’re used, so the patient’s body just treats them as a structure to grow on. That said, we do try to choose allografts that best match the patient’s height, size, gender and build. Why would a patient elect to get an allograft rather than, say, an endo-prosthesis? There are a number of reasons, including the location of the affected bone in the body and the involvement of soft tissue. In the early days of endo-prosthetics, there was nothing to help a bone hold onto a metal surface when you used an implant to repair a bone defect. Now, we have metal surface options with porous...