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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Autologous stem cell transplant

Autologous stem cell transplant

Our cancer doctors perform stem cell transplants (also called Hematopoietic Progenitor Cell Transplantation) to treat blood-related diseases like non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

In an autologous transplant, stem cells are collected from the patient themselves, harvested, frozen and stored, then given back to 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.

The autologous stem cell transplant process

The first step in an autologous stem cell transplant is harvesting the stem cells. Our doctors typically obtain stem cells from the bloodstream (peripheral blood stem cells). A mobilization treatment brings the stem cells from the bone marrow into the peripheral bloodstream. Once the stem cells are in the bloodstream, 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 the stem cells are harvested, they are frozen in our Stem Cell Processing and Cryopreservation Laboratory until it’s time to transplant.

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

The frozen bags of stem cells are thawed out in preparation for the transplant. Once thawed, the stem cells are re-infused into the bloodstream, similar to a blood transfusion. This 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.

After the transplant

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

Due to the time it takes to build the immune system back up after a transplant, your doctors take careful measures afterwards. In the weeks following the transplant, we'll check your blood counts frequently. You may need blood transfusions to prevent or treat infections and/or bleeding issues. We‘ll also prescribe medications when needed.

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Autologous stem cell transplant medical animation