A stem cell transplant, also called the bone marrow transplant, is a treatment on some types of cancer. It is effective against leukemia, multiple myeloma, or some types of lymphoma. Doctors also treat some blood diseases with stem cell transplants.
There are 2 main types of transplants. They are named based on who gives the stem cells.
- Autologous: The stem cells come from the same person who will get the transplant.
- Allogenic: The stem cells come from a matched related or unrelated donor.
There’s also a third type called as Syngeneic transplant, where the stem cells are fetched from your identical twin, in case you have one. Onco-Life Cancer Centre has an expert team of hematologist in Pune, Mumbai, Satara region who will guide you in your decision.
In this type, your own stem cells are extracted from your blood or bone marrow and frozen into a facility before they are exposed to chemotherapy or radiation treatments and get destroyed in the process. After you are administered with high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill the cancerous cells, the stem cells are thawed and given back to you.
The advantage of autologous stem cell transplant is that you get your own cells back, which is easier for your body to accept without dispute. You don’t have to worry about contracting an infection from the donor. However, there is still a possibility of graft failure where your cells are unable to produce blood cells as they should. Also, the autologous transplant does not produce the “graft-versus-cancer” effect, which will be explained further.
One major concern of an autologous transplant is the possibility of involuntarily collecting cancerous cells along with stem cells and later putting them back into the body. Another disadvantage is that your immune system remains the same as before, which means cancer can fight its way back into the system.
On the positive side though, technological advancement has now made it possible to treat the stem cells, rid them of cancer and strengthen them before inserting them back. This process is called ‘purging’.
Allogeneic stem cell transplants use cells from a donor, whose tissue type closely matches with the patient. The most ideal donor is a close family member, such as a brother or a sister. Transplants with a MUD (matched unrelated donor) are usually riskier than those with a relative who is a good match.
Blood extracted from the placenta and umbilical cord called the ‘cord blood’ of newborns is a newer source of stem cells for ‘allogenic’ transplant. Even a small volume has a high amount of healthy stem cells that multiply rapidly. But often, this amount is good enough only for kids and young adults but not for aged patients. One solution on this is to artificially stimulate cell growth in a lab. Also, a rare method involves dual cord blood transplant where blood from 2 cords is combined and used for one adult.
Graft vs Cancer Effect – The donor stem cells produce their own immune cells, which could help kill any cancer cells that remain after high-dose treatment. Another advantage is that the cancer-free donors can donate more cells whenever required, unlike the autologous procedure.
The transplanted donor stem cells could die or be destroyed by the patient’s body before settling in the bone marrow. Another risk is the ‘graft-versus-host’ where the immune cells from the donor may not just attack the cancer cells but also the healthy cells in the patient’s body. Graft-versus-host condition can, however, be treated with steroids or other drugs that suppress your immune system.
Who requires stem cell transplant?
Stem cell transplant is required to treat people with certain types of leukemia, lymphomas, and cancers such as that of the testicles. They may also be used for neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma.
It is very important that the donor and recipient are a close match to avoid graft rejection. Graft rejection happens when the recipient’s immune system recognizes the donor cells as foreign and tries to destroy them mistaking them of bacteria or virus. Graft rejection can lead to graft failure, but it’s rare when the donor and recipient are well matched.
If you are looking for medical advice on stem cell treatment or need a consultation, visit Onco-Life Cancer Centre, Satara. Onco-Life Cancer Centre is regarded as one of the foremost oncology centers for cancer treatment in Pune & adjoining area having on board, one of the best oncologist in Pune.