Stem cell transplants | Cancer Research UK

Posted: September 25, 2015 at 7:49 pm

This post was added by Dr. Richardson

About stem cell transplants

Stem cell transplant is a treatment to try to cure some types of cancer, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. You have very high doses of chemotherapy, sometimes with whole body radiotherapy. This has a good chance of killing cancer cells but also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. We need stem cells in order to make red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Doctors can collect stem cells from your blood or a donor's. After high dose treatment you have the stem cells into your vein through a drip.

You have injections of growth factors before, and sometimes after, the stem cell transplant. Growth factors are natural proteins that make the bone marrow produce blood cells. You have them as small injections under the skin for between 5 and 10 days. Sometimes you may have low doses of a chemotherapy drug too. The chemotherapy and growth factor injections help your bone marrow to make lots of stem cells. These stem cells then spill out of the bone marrow into the bloodstream, where they can be collected.

Collecting the stem cells takes 3 or 4 hours. You lie down on a couch. Your nurse puts a drip into each of your arms and attaches it to a machine. Your blood passes out of one drip, through the machine and back into your body through the other drip. The machine filters the stem cells out of your blood. The stem cells are frozen until you are ready to have them back.

If you have stem cells from another person, you will have blood tests and the donor will also have blood tests. These tests make sure that the donated stem cells closely match your own.

Cord blood transplants use stem cells taken from the umbilical cord after a baby is born. A lower volume of stem cells are collected and so these are often used for children needing a transplant. But it may be possible for adults to have stem cells from 2 umbilical cords (double cord transplant).

Mini transplants are also called reduced intensity conditioning transplants. They use lower doses of chemotherapy than a traditional stem cell transplant. So they are used if people are not fit or well enough for a standard transplant.

View a summary of the bone marrow and stem cell transplant section

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Stem cell transplants | Cancer Research UK

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