What is Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation?

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blood cells imageWhat are bone marrow blood stem cells?

Every blood cell starts from a special kind of cell called a bone marrow stem cell. Your bone marrow makes blood cells.

The cells in our blood do several vital things:

  • White blood cells (WBC or leucocytes) fight infections
  • Red blood cells (RBC or erythrocytes) carry oxygen
  • Platelets help blood to clot and stop bleeding

The process of blood cell growth is called hematopoiesis.

How does an autologous stem cell transplant work?

Some types of cancer are best treated with higher doses of chemotherapy.  But, such a high dose of chemotherapy can reduce the number of blood cells growing in the bone marrow.

We can give people higher doses of chemotherapy if we collect and safely freeze their bone marrow stem cells first. A few days later, when the chemotherapy is gone from the body, we can thaw and reinfuse their own bone marrow stem cells.  The “transplanted” stem cells begin to grow in the bone marrow. After a few weeks, the bone marrow stem cells produce normal numbers of blood cells.

Who might need an autologous stem cell transplant?

Autologous stem cell transplant is often an option for people who have received other treatments already. Autologous stem cell transplant is a standard treatment option for people diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and some types of Lymphoma. It may help people with other cancer types, too.  Not everyone with these cancers will need a transplant.

It may also be an option if it is likely to extend a person’s survival time or cure them of their cancer.

If an autologous stem cell transplant is a treatment option for you, our UNM Transplant team is here to support you. Stem cell transplantation is complex. You may find the process physically and emotionally difficult. We will guide you and help you through your evaluation and treatment process.

If an autologous stem cell transplant is a treatment
option for you, our UNM Transplant team is here to support you.
You can ask our team questions: call 505-925-0062.

What are the other types of blood stem cell transplants?

The UNM Cancer Center performs autologous stem cell transplants. An autologous stem cell transplant uses a person’s own stem cells. Another type of transplant, called an allogeneic transplant, infuses blood stem cells from a donor.

UNM does not currently perform allogeneic transplants. We care for people before and after they have received an allogeneic transplant at other cancer centers. People who receive allogeneic transplants often require specialty care for many years after their treatment.