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Understanding Stem Cell Cancer Treatment

May 11, 2018

Cancer is still a leading cause of death worldwide, it is a condition in which cells in a specific part of the body grow uncontrollably or uncontrolled growth of the cell is called cancer. The cancer cells can invade and deform or decay surrounding healthy and important cells, including organs and tissues or muscles. It sometimes starts in one part of the body and spread to other body parts, by a process known as metastasis.
The causative agent or factor may be toxic substances, radiation, genetic factors etc. if the causative agents of cancer are very strong powerful against our immune system, the disease becomes full blown.

Stem cell cancer treatment

Stem cell cancer treatment is a type of treatment that treats cancer by using stem cell transplant, which is also called peripheral blood stem cell transplant. It is used to try and cure some types of cancer such as myeloma, lymphoma and leukemia. Stem cells are very early blood cells in the bone marrow that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. They are needed in order to survive. Your doctor can collect them from a donor or from your blood. After a high dose of treatment which leaves stem cells dead, the stem cells are replaced through an intravenous drip.

Understanding Stem cells

Stem cells are the body’s raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Stem cells may be derived from several sources:

  • Embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos and are thought to hold the most potential because these cells can give rise to virtually any specialized cell in the human body.
  • Adult stem cells are present in adult tissues such as the bone marrow, brain and blood but are limited in potential relative to embryonic stem cells.
  • Cord blood stem cells are derived from cord blood and are thought to hold enormous potential in treating diseases


Stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant) is a medical procedure in which diseased bone marrow is replaced by highly specialized stem cells that stimulate bone marrow growth, suppress the disease and reduce the possibility of going into remission. Stem cell transplant implies that you can have higher doses of treatment through chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Therefore, the chances of getting cured are higher.

Types of stem cell transplants

There are two main types of stem cell transplants. You and your doctor will discuss the best choice for you.

  • Autologous Stem Cell Transplant

This is also known as auto stem cell transplant. Cancer treatment using autologous stem cell transplant uses your own stem cells. It is used mainly to treat myeloma and lymphoma. There is less risk of rejection or graft-versus-host disease, whereby the new donor cells think your cells are foreign and attack them. Ina addition, engraftment is quicker ad side effects are fewer.
How It Works: Your team of doctors collect, freeze and store your own stem cells. You then undergo treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy after which your stem cells are thawed and transplanted back into you. You may need to go through the above process twice instead of once. This is known as a tandem or double autologous stem cell transplant.

  • Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant

This type of stem cell transplant is also known as also stem cell transplant. It involves using stem cells that have been donated. It is mainly used to treat leukemia, aggressive lymphomas and autologous transplants that have failed.
How It Works: Stem cells are donated from a matched donor. You then receive treatment using chemotherapy or radiation therapy after which you receive the donor stem cells.

Side-effects of stem cell transplants

The type and strength of your high-dose treatment are what will influence any side-effects you may have and their severity. Possible side effects include:

  • Increased risk of infection
  • Bleeding due to low blood counts
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Reduced appetite
  • A sore mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Graft failure



After having a stem cell transplant to treat your cancer, you will have regular tests to check your general health. In addition, monitoring the levels of your blood cells, you will have blood tests. Most of the side effects are worse when your blood count is at its lowest. However, as this goes up, the side effects will begin to improve. You will be able to go home when your blood count has reached a safe level.

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