In this article, you will information about the Autologous stem cell transplant, its success rate and its recovery time.
Stem cell transplantation which is also known as bone marrow transplant is a procedure that replaces unhealthy blood-forming cells with healthy cells. Stem cell transplant or peripheral blood stem cell transplant is a treatment to cure some types of cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
Blood-forming stem cells are important because they grow into different types of blood cells. They develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Stem cell transplants do not usually work against cancer directly. Instead, they help to recover the ability to produce stem cells after treatment.
Treatment of cancer and leukemia is a changing and developing area of medicine. Techniques such as stem cell transplant continue to be refined and improved and may be considered in various different circumstances. Researchers continue to improve stem cell transplantation procedures, making them an option for more patients. The higher doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy that can be used in conjunction with a stem cell transplant can improve the chance of curing a cancer than with standard chemotherapy.
Bone Marrow Transplant Procedure
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the new name for bone marrow transplantation.
The bone marrow is home to hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), also called pluripotent stem cells because they provide any cell your body requires at any given moment. These specialized cells play a vital role in replenishing our daily blood supply to maintain blood counts. These cells can be collected either by performing repeated bone marrow target or by mobilizing hematopoietic stem cells into the circulation using special medications called cytokines also called neupogen, and filtering them out of blood using a highly specialized process called apheresis. When they are collected from body, these stem cells can be preserved by storing them in a chemical called DMSO, and keeping them in a freezer. Stem cell transplantation refers to a process whereby the patient’s HSCs are replaced by new cells that grow into a healthy hematopoietic system.
Allogeneic vs. Autologous Stem Cell Transplant
There are two types of Stem cell transplants:
- Autologous Stem Cell Transplant
- Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant
Each of these stem cell transplantation has its own distinct process. Autologous stem cell transplants and allogenic stem cell transplants also carries distinct benefits and risks which should be taken into account when deciding which of these stem cell treatments a patient requires.
In an allogeneic stem cell transplant a patient receives stem cells from a donor. Allogeneic transplants are preferred in certain circumstances, such as in the treatment of leukemia. The donor used in an allogeneic stem cell transplant can be the patient’s identical twin, family member, sibling, or an unrelated donor.
The limitation in allogeneic stem cell treatment is that this process carries the risk of developing GVHD, whereby the patient’s body rejects the donor stem cells.
While in an autologous stem cell transplant the patient receives stem cells from his own blood. This type of stem cell treatment is mostly used in the treatment of solid tumors, including lymphoma, sarcoma, brain tumors and neuroblastoma. It is also generally used in cases when surgery is performed on the blood vessels, urinary tract and heart.
Autologous Stem Cell Transplant
An autologous transplant (or rescue) is a type of transplant that uses the person’s own stem cells. These cells are collected in advance and returned at a later stage. They are used to replace stem cells that have been damaged by high doses of chemotherapy, used to treat the person’s underlying disease.
Doctors perform stem cell transplants (also called Hematopoietic Progenitor Cell Transplantation) to treat blood-related diseases like non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.
In an autologous transplant, stem cells are collected from the patient themselves, harvested, frozen and stored, then given back to the patient after intensive therapy.
Autologous Stem Cell Transplant Procedure
The initial step in an autologous stem cell transplant is harvesting the stem cells. Doctors usually get stem cells from the bloodstream. A mobilization treatment brings the stem cells from the bone marrow into the peripheral bloodstream. The collection process begins once the stem cells are in the bloodstream.
The blood is separated by means of an apheresis machine. This process takes few hours, and is repeated until the suitable amount of stem cells is collected. Once the stem cells are harvested, they are frozen in our Stem Cell Processing and Cryopreservation Laboratory until it’s time to transplant.
After that high doses of chemotherapy are administer, and sometimes radiation therapy, to destroy the remaining cancer cells. The transplant typically occurs about two days after the intensive treatment is complete.
The frozen bags of stem cells are defrosted in preparation for the transplant. Once defrosted, the stem cells are re-infused into the bloodstream, similar to a blood transfusion. This process usually takes about an hour. After entering the bloodstream, the stem cells travel to the bone marrow and start to generate new blood cells in a process called engraftment.
Autologous Stem Cell Transplant Recovery
Hundred days after the transplant are crucial for those who have had a stem cell transplant. They may undergo various tests to determine the status of the disease and its response to treatment.
Recovery depends on the person’s physical condition before the transplant and the side effects they experienced. Majority people leave the hospital without having any major problems, but recovery occurs gradually.
After one year, the immune system usually returns to normal and the bone marrow produces blood cells normally again. It may take longer for those who are on immune-suppressing drugs.
Autologous Stem Cell Transplant Success rate
The success of transplant will depend on a number of factors including the type and stage of disease, age and general health. During this time it is important to look after the patient physically and emotionally.
Important advances have been made in recent years, and continue to be made, improving the success of all types of transplants. Though, many people experience a relapse of their original disease at some stage after an autologous transplant. If disease relapses, there are often ways of getting it under control. It may include chemotherapy or another transplant, or a drug to stimulate immune system to fight the disease.
I had an autologous bone marrow transplant when my Hodgkins disease reoccurred less than a year after chemo and radiation. I was eighteen, it was August 1990. I am now forty-eight and have had two open heart surgeries (2011, mitral valve repair and 2017 mitral and aortic valve replacement). I’ve been told that my chemo and high dose radiation caused the damage. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’m curious to know more about my circumstances then and if there are other survivors like me, also if there’s anyway my history can help other patients.