You will require a stem cell transplant if you have leukemia or lymphoma. These Stem Cell Technologies for cancer are helping to replace damaged cells. They also allow the body to recover faster from intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
For others, this could be the best—or only—approach.
What is Stem Cell Technologies?
Stem cell transplant is a technique for restoring blood-forming stem cells in patients that have been destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation treatment used to treat certain cancers.
Blood-forming stem cells are important because they become various types of blood cells. The main forms of cells in the blood are:
- White blood cells are part of your immune system and help your body fighting infection
- Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body
- Platelets that help to clot the blood
You need to keep all three types of blood cells healthy
Types of Stem Cell Transplants
You can receive healthy blood-forming stem cells by a needle in your vein in a stem cell transplant. Once they enter the bloodstream, the stem cells travel to the bone marrow, replacing the cells that have been destroyed by treatment. The blood-forming stem cells used for transplant can originate from the bone marrow, bloodstream, or umbilical cord. Transplants may be:
- Autologous, which means that the stem cells come from you, the patient
- Allogeneic, which means that the stem cells come from someone else. The donor may be a blood relative, but it may also be someone who is not related
- Syngeneic, which means that the stem cells come from your identical twin if you have one
To minimize potential side effects and improve the chances that an allogeneic transplant would succeed, the donor’s blood-forming stem cells must match yours in certain ways.
How Stem Cell Technologies for Cancer Treatment work?
Stem cell transplants do not typically work directly against cancer. Instead, after being injected with very high levels of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both, they help you recover the ability to produce stem cells.
However, in multiple myeloma and some leukemia forms, a stem cell transplant can work directly against cancer. This is because of an effect called graft-versus-tumor that can occur after allogeneic transplantation. Graft-versus-tumour happens when white blood cells from your donor (the graft) attack any cancer cells that remain in your body (the tumor) after high-dose therapy. This effect would increase the effectiveness of treatments.
Who Receives Stem Cell Transplants?
Stem cell transplantation is most commonly used to treat patients with leukemia and lymphoma. They can also be used for neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma.
Stem cell transplants and other forms of cancer are being studied in clinical trials with human subjects. Find a Clinical Trial for a study that could be an option for you.
What Are the Risks?
If you are being treated by your stem cells, you can first have high-dose chemotherapy. This could cause side effects. What and how serious they are depends on the dose. You could have:
- Severe infections
That doesn’t sound good, but advances in cancer treatment will make it easier for them to live with.
When you have stem cells from a donor or cord blood, there is a risk of something called graft-versus.-host disease. It’s when the body battles to get rid of the new cells, or when the cells attack you. It could happen immediately after the transplant, or not until one year later.
Thanks to steps in the matching process over the past decade or so. Now, the risks of getting more treatment problems are much lower than they used to be. After the transplant, you’ll also get drugs that can work to keep those problems at bay.
Still, if you’re older, it may be harder for you to handle side effects. You are also more likely to have another health problem, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Your doctor may want you to have a reduced-intensity or “mini” stem cell transplantation.
You begin with a lower dose of chemo and radiation before you get the stem cells. It’s less taxing the body, and new cells will still grow and fight your cancer.
What to expect when you get a Stem Cell Transplant
1. Where You Go for a Stem Cell Transplant?
If you need allogeneic Stem Cell Technologies for Cancer Treatment, you would need to go to a hospital with a specialist transplant center. The National Marrow Donor Program maintains a list of transplant centers.
If you do not live near a transplant center, you may need to travel home for your treatment. You may continue to be in the hospital during the transplant, be able to have it as an outpatient. Or you may need to be in the hospital most of the time. If you’re not in the hospital, you’ll need to stay in a hotel or apartment nearby. Many transplant centers can help you find nearby housing.
2. How long it takes to have a stem cell transplant?
A stem cell transplant may take a couple of months to complete. The procedure starts with the treatment with high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of both. This treatment continues for a week or two. If you’ve done, you’ll have a couple of days to rest.
Next, you’re going to receive the blood-forming stem cells. You will receive the stem cells through the IV catheter. It is like receiving a blood transfusion. It takes 1 to 5 hours to get all the stem cells.
After receiving the stem cells, you begin the recovery process. During this time, you’re waiting for the blood cells you’ve got to start making new blood cells.
And after your blood levels return to normal, it takes much longer for your immune system to recover. It takes months for autologous transplantation and 1 to 2 years for allogeneic transplantation.
How Stem Cell Technologies for Cancer Treatment May Affect You?
Stem Cell Technologies for Cancer Treatment affects patients in many ways. How you feel depends on the following:
- The kind of transplant you have
- Doses of treatment you have before the transplants
- How you react to high-dose treatment
- Your cancer type
- How advanced is your cancer
- How healthy you were before transplantation
People respond to stem cell transplants in many ways. The doctor or nurse can’t be sure how the procedure would make you feel.
How to Know If Your Stem Cell Transplant Works?
Doctors can monitor the progress of new blood cells by checking the blood counts often. Your blood counts will increase when the newly transplanted stem cells produce blood cells.
The Bottom Line
As discussed above, you need to visit a doctor and have regular post-transplant tests. This is to watch for any symptoms of cancer or transplantation problems and take care of any side effects you experience. This follow-up is an important part of the recovery.
It’s important to speak to your health care team often before, during, and after a transplant. You are advised to gather information, ask questions, and work together with your health care provider.