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Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation

To treat or cure your blood cancer, your doctor may suggest very high doses of chemotherapy and an autologous stem cell transplantation using your own stem cells.

How Does It Work?

Your marrow is collected while you're in remission. You must first undergo conditioning therapy in the form of high-intensity chemotherapy or radiation to control the disease and decrease the number of cancer cells in your marrow and blood. Your own stem cells are "harvested," or retrieved, from your body and frozen. After you receive intensive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, your cells are returned to your body by infusion through a vein.

An autologous stem cell transplant's goal is to restore the body's ability to make normal blood cells after high-dose chemotherapy or radiation. Unlike allogeneic stem cell transplant, this procedure:

  • doesn't offer the benefits of graft versus tumor (GVL) effect when healthy donor cells attack cancer cells
  • doesn't carry the risk of graft versus host disease

Autologous stem cell transplantation can cause some adverse effects, mostly from the high-intensity conditioning therapy:

  • Markedly decreased blood counts can lead to infection and require transfusions of red cells (to treat anemia) and platelets (to prevent or treat hemorrhage)
  • Some conditioning drugs can cause complications, such as interstitial pneumonia, as a result of infection or damage from intensive therapy.
  • Painful oral ulcers (oral mucositis) can develop, which in rare cases hinder eating or drinking. The skin-cell growth factor palifermin (Kepivance®) and other measures can prevent or lessen oral mucositis' effects.

More to Explore

Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation

last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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