Stem cell transplantation
Our Hematology Oncology Department provides advanced medical therapies for patients with various types and stages of hematologic disease, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. Some hematologic cancer patients undergo a hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation (commonly referred to as a stem cell transplant).
Understanding stem cell transplantation
A stem cell transplant can be used to infuse healthy stem cells into the body to stimulate new bone marrow growth, suppress the disease, and reduce the possibility of a relapse.
Stem cells can be found in the bone marrow, circulating blood (peripheral blood stem cells), and umbilical cord blood.
Our doctors perform two main types of stem cell transplants:
The stem cell transplant process
Before a stem cell transplant, you'll undergo a conditioning regime, which involves intensive treatment to destroy as many cancer cells as possible. You may receive high doses of chemotherapy and, in some cases, radiation therapy. Once this preparative regime is complete, you're ready to undergo the transplant.
Much like a blood transfusion, you’ll receive the stem cells intravenously. The procedure takes about an hour. After entering the bloodstream, the stem cells travel to the bone marrow and start to make new blood cells in a process known as engraftment.
In the months following the transplant, your care team will monitor your blood counts. You may need transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. Sometimes, the intensive treatments you receive before the stem cell transplantation can cause side effects, like infection. In this case, your doctor may administer IV antibiotics.
If you had an allogeneic stem cell transplant, your doctor may prescribe certain drugs to reduce the risk of graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), a condition where the donated cells attack the patient's tissues.
Helping you maintain your quality of life
Recovery from a stem cell transplant can take several months. You’ll need support from multiple areas to help reduce side effects, keep you strong and improve your quality of life.
Our hematology oncology team will collaborate with the rest of your care team to support you throughout the entire treatment process. The following are examples of how the other members of your care team will work together to meet your individual needs:
- Your nutritionist will develop a personalized meal plan to keep you nourished and fortify your body after the transplant.
- Your naturopathic clinician will recommend natural therapies to help minimize side effects, such as peripheral neuropathy and fatigue.
- Your pain management practitioner will use various pain control methods to help alleviate discomfort and control pain, including bone and neuropathic pain.
- Your mind-body therapist will provide counseling and stress management techniques to help you relax so you can focus on healing.
- Your rehabilitation therapist will provide a personalized exercise program to help you stay active and functionally independent.
- Your spiritual counselor will help nurture your spiritual well-being.
Throughout your treatment, your care manager will also be available to make sure your questions are answered, and ensure you and your family have the information and resources you need to make informed decisions.
Learn more about leukemia cancer treatments
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are parent cells which can develop into any of the three main types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
What are peripheral blood stem cell transplants?
A peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT) uses stem cells extracted from the peripheral (circulating) blood supply.
What are bone marrow transplants?
A bone marrow transplant (BMT) uses stem cells collected from the bone marrow.