Stem Cell Transplant

Cancer treatment abroad


Stem cell transplants are used to replace bone marrow cells that have been destroyed by cancer, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy used to treat cancer. Stem cell transplants do not usually work against cancer directly. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are produced by stem cells. All of these types of blood cells are necessary for our survival. For these blood cells to function properly, sufficient quantities of each must be present in the blood. In recent years, treatments that target cancer stem cells have become indispensable when combined with conventional cancer treatments and for preventing relapse.

Diseases treated with Stem Cell Transplants

Most frequently, stem cell transplants are used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. Additionally, they may be used to treat neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma. Some cancers originate in the bone marrow, while others may spread there. Cancer attacks the bone marrow, causing it to produce unhealthy cells that don’t function properly or too many unhealthy cells that crowd out healthy cells. For these cancers to stop growing, bone marrow cells must begin producing new, healthy cells and function properly.

Depending on the type of leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, a stem cell transplant may be an essential part of the treatment. The purpose of the transplant is to eradicate cancer cells and damaged or unhealthy cells that are not functioning properly, and to provide the patient with new, healthy stem cells to “restart”. In clinical trials, which involve human participants, stem cell transplants for other types of cancer are being investigated.


In a stem cell transplant, healthy blood-forming stem cells are injected into a patient’s vein. Once stem cells enter the bloodstream, they travel to the bone marrow, where they replace cells that were eliminated by treatment. Blood-forming stem cells used in transplants can be extracted from bone marrow, blood, or the umbilical cord. Transplants may be:

  • autologous, which indicates that the stem cells come from you, the patient. 
  • allogeneic transplant, indicates that the patient gets healthy stem cells from a donor
  • syngeneic, which indicates that the stem cells are derived from your identical twin if the patient have one.

To reduce potential side effects and increase the likelihood that an allogeneic transplant will be successful, the blood-forming stem cells of the donor must match yours in specific ways.

Preparation for Stem Cell Transplants

Although stem cell transplants can help some patients, even giving some individuals a chance at a cure, the decision to undergo a transplant is difficult. As with all aspects of your medical care, you must be the one to decide whether or not you will receive a stem cell transplant. Transplantation has been used to save the lives of tens of thousands of people whose cancers would have otherwise been fatal. Nonetheless, there are risks and complications that can pose a threat to life. Before transplant, the expected risks and benefits must be carefully weighed.

Your cancer care team will evaluate the risks associated with the cancer itself versus the risks associated with the transplant. They may also discuss alternative treatment options and clinical trials with you. Before making this decision, the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age, the time between diagnosis and transplant, the type of donor, and the patient’s overall health are all considered.


The completion of a stem cell transplant can take several months. High doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two are administered initially. This treatment lasts for two weeks. After completion, you will have a few days of rest. The patient will then receive blood-forming stem cells. The stem cells will be administered via intravenous catheter. This method is comparable to receiving a blood transfusion. One to five hours are required to receive all of the stem cells.

After receiving stem cells, the recovery phase begins. During this time, you await the production of new blood cells by the blood cells you received. Even after your blood counts return to normal, it takes several months for autologous transplants and one to two years for allogeneic or syngeneic transplants for your immune system to fully recover.

The doctors will monitor the development of new blood cells by conducting frequent blood counts. Your blood counts will increase as the newly transplanted stem cells produce blood cells. Prior to a stem cell transplant, high-dose treatments can cause side effects that make it difficult to eat, such as mouth sores and nausea.

Benefits of Stem Cell Transplants

Stem cell therapy, which includes all procedures involving stem cells, has provided a promising cancer treatment option. It could improve the therapeutic efficacy of other therapies by targeting tumors more precisely, thereby reducing off-target effects. Numerous stem cell-based strategies are currently being investigated in preclinical trials, and they present both great promise and challenges for the treatment of cancer. Therefore, additional evaluation is required to make them suitable for future clinical trials.