Autologous stem cell transplant

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science.

This page was updated on April 21, 2022.

In an autologous transplant, stem cells are collected from the patient themselves, harvested, frozen and stored, then infused back into the patient after intensive therapy. An autologous stem cell transplant is different from an allogeneic stem cell transplant, which uses stem cells from a matching donor.

Our doctors typically harvest stem cells from the patient’s bloodstream (peripheral blood stem cells). Through a mobilization process, the stem cells are brought from the bone marrow into the peripheral bloodstream, where the collection process begins.

The blood is separated using an apheresis machine. This process takes a few hours and is repeated until the appropriate amount of stem cells is collected. Once harvested, the stem cells are frozen in our Stem Cell Processing and Cryopreservation Laboratory until it’s time to transplant.

Our doctors administer high doses of chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy, to destroy the remaining cancer cells. The transplant typically occurs about two days after these therapies are complete.

The frozen stem cells are thawed and then re-infused into the bloodstream, similar to a blood transfusion. The procedure typically takes about an hour. After entering the bloodstream, the stem cells travel to the bone marrow and begin to produce new blood cells in a process called engraftment.

The hematology oncology team will collaborate to reduce the risk of complications and address your needs throughout the stem cell transplant process.

Because it takes to build the immune system back up after a transplant, your doctors take careful measures after the stem cell transplant. In the weeks afterward, your blood counts will be checked frequently and blood transfusions may be necessary to prevent or treat infections and/or bleeding issues.

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