Is Stem Cell Transplant a Good Option for Cancer Treatment?

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Is Stem Cell Transplant a Good Option for Cancer Treatment?

A stem cell transplant is an extreme form of cancer treatment. It begins with chemotherapy and radiation in what’s known as “conditioning,” which kills off a person’s immune system cells. This conditioning eliminates the healthy cells that would otherwise attack the transplanted stem cells from another person or a cord blood bank. Then, stem cells are reintroduced to the patient, giving them a new source of immunity.

Clinical studies have shown stem cell transplants to help prolong life among certain cancer patients when other treatments have failed. But they can also kill the patients quickly, so they should know what they are getting into before going forward with this type of treatment.

A stem cell transplant is a life-saving treatment when dealing with blood cancers like leukaemia or lymphoma. Stem cells can be harvested from healthy donors’ blood or bone marrow and transplanted into the patient. Stem cells can also come from cord blood banks, which store donated umbilical cords that have been treated for diseases like HIV and other infections.

Stem cells can also come from the patient, but they have to match 100% for this treatment to work. That means siblings are usually the best donors for patients, but even then, there’s no guarantee that two people will be compatible enough to use each other’s stem cells.

Types of stem transplants

There are various types of stem transplants. The two primary kinds are:

  1. Autologous stem cell transplant: Bone marrow or stem cells come from the patient’s own body for this kind of transplant. When the treatment requireshigh-dose chemotherapy, it damages the patient’s stem cells and can impact the immune system. This is why doctors remove some of the stem cells and preserve them before the treatment starts. Then, after intensive chemotherapy, these preserved stem cells are restored in the body to rebuild and strengthen the immune system.
  • Allogenic stem cell transplant:In this kind of transplant, stem cells come from another person, usually referred to as a donor. This is called an ALLO transplant. Sometimes, patients have a ‘graft-versus-cancer cell effect’ during an ALLO transplant. It means the new stem cells from the donor recognise the existing cancer cells in the body and destroy them. 

Some of the associated risks

Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and stem transplants, are not easy for anyone. If your treatment involves your stem cells, you might have to go through high-dose chemotherapy. Depending upon your dosage, the side effects may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

What can you expect pre and post procedure?

While some people will recover from a stem cell transplant on their own after going into remission, others will require additional treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. Stem cell transplants do not guarantee that a person will get better even if there are no signs of any disease in their body, so it’s best not to rush into this type of treatment without thinking about what it means for your life. Stem cells from donors have been shown to fight leukaemia or lymphoma effectively when other treatments have failed.

It would be best to not go through with a stem cell transplant unless you have exhausted all of your other treatment options. Stem cell transplants are complicated and expensive procedures that require you to have access to skilled doctors performing the transplant at a hospital with state-of-the-art medical equipment. In addition, stem cell transplants can be fatal if they contain undetectable infections or diseases that could be passed on to your doctor or other patients after treatment. If you are looking for the best cancer doctors in India or seeking a second opinion on whether you should go for a stem transplant, search for ‘oncologists near me’ and consult award-winning oncologists with just a few taps on your smartphone.