About Bone Marrow Transplant
Stem cells do not work against cancer directly, but they help to replace the damaged cells and recover the body’s ability to produce stem cells.
Stem cell Transplant (SCT) or Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) refer to the same thing as the transplant itself is the same. The only difference between the two is the source of the transplanted cells. If the stem cells to be transplanted into a patient are collected from the bone marrow then the procedure is called BMT; whereas if they are collected from the bloodstream then the procedure is called SCT.
SCT are the most common type of transplant; whereas, BMT are not used as much. This is because, its easier to collect stem cells from the bloodstream than the bone marrow.
There are 2 main types of transplants. They are named based on who gives the stem cells.
Autologous: The stem cells come from the same person who will get the transplant
Allogenic: The stem cells come from a matched related or unrelated donor
Stem cell transplants, including peripheral blood, bone marrow and cord blood transplants, can be used to treat cancer. These are most often used for acres affecting the blood or immune system such as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma.
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This procedure involves the patient being injected with healthy blood forming stem cells. Once these healthy cells enter the bloodstream, they travel to the bone marrow and replace the cells destroyed during treatment.
Therefore, prior to beginning radiation or chemotherapy, stem cells from either the blood stream or bone marrow are collected and are later used to replace the damaged cells after the therapy is completed. However, in some types of leukemia and multiple myeloma, SCT is a treatment option, as this may work against the cancer directly.
In a typical SCT for cancer, very high doses of chemotherapy are used, sometimes along with radiation therapy to try to kill all the cancer cells. This treatment also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after the treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, much like a blood transfusion. Over time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells. This process is called engraftment.
SCT can be a lengthy procedure as it takes a few months to complete. The process starts with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of both. After this is completed, you have a rest period, after which you will receive SCT. During this recovery phase your new cells will start forming and this will be monitored through regular blood tests. Even after your cell counts return to normal. it takes longer for your immune system to fully recover.
Once the transplant has finished, the patient would need to stay in hospital for a few weeks to wait for the stem cells to settle in the bone marrow and start producing new blood cells. In the hospital, the patient will be isolated because of the increased risk of infection. The team of doctors will closely monitor the blood counts and vital signs.