If you need a stem cell transplant, your specific diagnosis will determine which option is right for you. During your initial visit, your physician will discuss which transplant is more appropriate as well as the risks and benefits to each approach.
Autologous Transplants (using your own cells)
In an autologous transplant, your own stem cells are collected from your blood and then reintroduced into your body after treatment, so your immune system can be rebuilt. The cells are rarely collected from your bone marrow because they are readily available in your blood.
The transplant is used after very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation kill the tumor cells in your body. The levels of therapy required to kill these tumor cells are often five to 10 times higher than regular chemotherapy doses, which, unfortunately, also results in the death of the healthy cells that live in the bone marrow.
Cells in the bone marrow contain important blood stem cells that have the ability to form all blood types. These include red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that treat infection and platelets that prevent bleeding. In addition, stem cells are able to form themselves so a single cell could reproduce the entire bone marrow after it is damaged.
During this type of transplant, your own stem cells are given back to you after you complete chemotherapy or radiation, allowing the "rescue" of your marrow.
Allogeneic Transplants (using donor cells)
The second major type of transplant, an allogeneic transplant, uses stem cells or bone marrow from another person. This transplant also typically involves very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation to kill the underlying cancer cells.
In this situation, donor cells are collected and given to you after chemotherapy or radiation. These cells can be collected from the blood stream or bone marrow. When these donor cells grow to form the new blood stem cells, they retain some of the characteristics of the original donor. The donor will be selected from family members or through the national bone marrow registry.
To speak with a nurse coordinator at the Cancer Transplant Institute, please call 480-323-4590.