Understanding stem cell transplants

A stem cell transplant is often the best option to treat blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, as well as bone marrow failure syndromes like myelodysplastic syndrome. To understand the different types of stem cell transplants and how they work, we spoke with Borje S. Andersson, M.D., Ph.D. Here’s what he had to say. What are stem cells? Bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside our bones, is the factory for blood cells. It creates hematopoietic stem cells that transform into several cell types, including: red blood cells, which carry oxygen to our tissues platelets, which stop bleeding white blood cells, which fight infection Blood cancers multiply uncontrollably, hindering the growth of these cells. A hematopoietic stem cell transplant replaces faulty cells so the body can produce normal, healthy cells again. What are the types of stem cell transplants? Stem cell transplants fall into two categories: autologous and allogeneic. An autologous stem cell transplant uses the patient’s own cells for treatment. We extract blood cells, treat the cancer with high-dose chemotherapy, then place the cells back into the patient. The patient has low blood counts until the replaced cells replenish the patient’s body with healthy cells. An allogeneic stem cell transplant is similar, but we take cells from someone other than the patient. The transplanted cells kill any remaining cancer cells and restore the patient’s immune system. Where do allogeneic stem cell transplant donor cells come from? There are three types of allogeneic stem cell transplants: bone marrow transplants peripheral blood transplants cord blood transplants With a bone marrow transplant, the donor receives general anesthesia, and the...