Autologous stem cell transplant helps to rebuild bone marrow that’s injured or destroyed during high dose drug therapies used to treat some cancers. The stem cells used are your own and are removed from your blood by a process called apheresis and they are given back intravenously. Once the stem cells are given back, they 'know' to go quickly to the bone marrow and begin rebuilding it. Because these cells come from your own body, they are not recognized as foreign and are not rejected. These blood stem cells do not help fight the cancer—they are only given to rebuild the bone marrow that was severely injured by the high-dose therapy
Your doctor may discuss with you, or you may have heard about, another procedure called an allogeneic transplant. This is where the patient receives stem cells from a compatible donor. Because the stem cells come from somebody else, the process is much more complicated and risky. Because of the risks involved, this is generally reserved for patients with leukemia or who have lymphomas that are not responding well to therapy.
What is a stem cell?
All blood cells develop from very immature cells called stem cells. Most stem cells are found in the bone marrow, which is a soft, spongy material found inside some bones. Stem cells develop to become one of three types of blood cells necessary for healthy functioning: white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets
White blood cells: White blood cells are an important part of the immune system. White blood cells function by recognizing bacteria and viruses and destroying them. Neutrophils, one type of white blood cell, are the body’s primary defense against bacterial infection. Neutropenia means that the number of neutrophils in the blood is too low to safely fight off bacteria.
Red blood cells: Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. They also bring carbon dioxide back to the lungs where it is eliminated from the body. Anemia means that the number of red blood cells is lower than normal. If the red blood cell count is too low, it means that there
may not be enough oxygen that is carried to the body’s organs. The hematocrit is the percentage of red cells in a volume of whole blood. Hemoglobin is the iron-containing pigment of the red blood cells. Hemoglobin makes the red blood cells red Its function is to carry oxygen to the tissues.
Platelets: Platelets are necessary to help blood to clot at a site of injury. Thrombocytopenia is the lack of sufficient platelets, which may result in easy bruising or bleeding.