What are the Pros and Cons of Using a Stem Cell Transplant for Lymphoma?

Jennifer Long
Jennifer Long
Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.
Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.

Stem cell transplant for lymphoma is a treatment that is often used as part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan. The procedure is beneficial because it helps repair damaged bone marrow and important red blood cells after chemotherapy. This treatment can be costly and has the potential to cause difficult side effects.

The three types of stem cell transplants are allogenic, autologous, and reduced-intensity. Allogenic transplants are most commonly chosen when a patient has damaged stem cells that are abnormal and cannot be reused, which occurs in certain conditions such as leukemia. The stem cells in this type of transplant come from a donor who shares the same blood and marrow type as the patient.

Red blood cells may be repaired and strengthened by a stem cell transplant that's used to treat lymphoma.
Red blood cells may be repaired and strengthened by a stem cell transplant that's used to treat lymphoma.

Autologous transplants use the patient’s own stem cells. This type is the preferred stem cell transplant for lymphoma because the patient has normal stem cells, and the odds of rejection are much lower. The patient’s stem cells are harvested and frozen before chemotherapy treatment begins and are transplanted after the treatment is finished.

Reduced-intensity transplanting is very similar to an allogenic stem cell transplant. Stem cells are provided by a donor. The difference is that using a reduced-intensity stem cell transplant for lymphoma is recommended for patients who do not require high doses of chemotherapy. This form of stem cell transplanting is used in conjunction with low-dose chemotherapy treatments.

Doctors use several factors to determine which type of stem cell transplant for lymphoma will be used. Each patient is different, which makes predicting the success can be difficult. One of the biggest drawbacks of a stem cell transplant is the chance of rejection or complications that cause a variety of symptoms.

There are several steps in preparing for a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. First, the stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow of the patient or a donor. Next, the patient undergoes chemotherapy to treat the lymphoma. After chemotherapy is completed, the stored cells are then transferred into the patient through a catheter that is attached to a large blood vessel in the chest.

Although the transplant can help replace the bone marrow and cells that chemotherapy destroys, long-term side effects can be difficult to deal with. Problems such as infertility, thyroid damage, cataracts, and leukemia are all possible results of a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. Graft-vs-host disease is also a common result in allogenic transplants, and happens when the donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s body.

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    • Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.
      Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.
    • Red blood cells may be repaired and strengthened by a stem cell transplant that's used to treat lymphoma.
      Red blood cells may be repaired and strengthened by a stem cell transplant that's used to treat lymphoma.