What Is an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant?
An autologous stem cell transplant is a treatment for certain types of cancer that involves removing stem cells from a patient’s blood, freezing them and then thawing and returning them to the patient after intensive cancer treatment has been completed. Unlike an allogeneic transplant, an autologous bone marrow transplant does not require finding a donor, as it uses cells from the patient’s own body.
Why is this procedure used?
An autologous bone marrow transplant is a treatment option for individuals with certain forms of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. In some instances, it has also been used for other types of cancer, such as testicular cancer and neuroblastoma. Blood cancers are typically addressed with systemic treatments that affect the whole body, such as chemotherapy. Sometimes, very high doses of chemotherapy (sometimes along with radiation therapy) are used to improve the chances of destroying all of the cancerous cells; however, these intense treatments also destroy the stem cells in the bone marrow. Therefore, an autologous bone marrow transplant is performed prior to these high-dose cancer treatments, removing the stem cells from the patient and replacing them once those treatments are complete. The stem cells eventually will settle back into the bone marrow, where they will resume growing and creating healthy blood cells.
What you can expect
If an autologous bone marrow transplant is recommended, the process involves:
- Collecting stem cells from the patient – Stem cells are collected from the patient over the course of one to three days. The collected stem cells are then frozen until needed.
- Conditioning the patient – Conditioning is used to provide treatment and prepare the patient’s body for the transplant. This typically involves chemotherapy or immunotherapy over the course of several days.
- Transplanting the stem cells – The stem cells are thawed and reintroduced to the patient through an IV or central line. Following the blood or bone marrow transplant, the treatment team will closely monitor the patient’s blood cell counts and track the progress to identify any issues early and help reduce the risk of complications.
Patients receiving an autologous bone marrow transplant are able to undergo the entire transplant process as an outpatient. Patients will receive the same level of care as our inpatients, but are able to leave the center daily and stay in local lodging. Your transplant doctor will discuss whether outpatient transplantation is an option for you.
If you would like to learn more about undergoing an autologous stem cell transplant or receiving any other cancer treatment at Moffitt, fill out a new patient registration form or call 1-888-663-3488.