Certain cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes are best treated with stem cell transplantation. In this procedure, patients receive high doses of chemotherapy (and sometimes radiation), leading to better control (even cure) of the cancers than can be achieved with standard doses of chemotherapy. However, the main side effect of the high doses of chemotherapy is prolonged suppression of the body’s ability to make blood. To get around this side effect, the patient receives an infusion of “stem cells” obtained from a healthy related or unrelated donor (allogeneic transplant) or from the patient him- or herself collected before the chemotherapy (autologous transplant).
The stem cells are actually called “hematopoietic stem cells”, and they are cells that serve to make new blood cells and immune cells. They can be obtained either from the bone marrow (“bone marrow transplant”) or from the blood stream (“blood or peripheral blood stem cell transplant”). (By the way, these hematopoietic stem cells are normal mature cells from adults and are completely different from “embryonic stem cells,” which have become a source of much ethical and political discussion of late.)
The stem cell transplant process is very complicated, but an experienced and comprehensive team delivers the procedure safely. The Transplantation Program is a designated transplant center of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and is an Aetna Institutes of Excellence Transplant Network Program.(Living With Cancer of The Blood.)
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