Some hematologic (blood-based) cancers, such as multiple myeloma, some forms of lymphoma, and specific types of solid tumors, are best treated with very high doses of chemotherapy. But these doses, necessary for killing cancer cells, may also destroy your bone marrow. This would be life-threatening, because without healthy bone marrow, your body could not produce the essential blood cells — red cells, white cells and platelets — that your body needs to carry oxygen, fight infection and clot your blood to after an injury.
An autologous transplant restores, or rescues, your healthy bone marrow after treating your cancer, using your own stem cells.
How an autologous stem cell transplant works
This type of transplant involves these basic steps:
- Collecting your stem cells. Before you begin your cancer treatment, your own healthy blood stem cells are collected at a time when there is little disease in the bone marrow, and then frozen for future use. The collection process is like that of a blood donation.
- High-dose chemotherapy. You’ll proceed with the appropriate treatments necessary to effectively treat your cancer.
- Stem cell rescue. You’ll receive your own stem cells back through an intravenous (IV) infusion. These cells travel through your bloodstream and back into your bone marrow, where they can start producing healthy blood cells again.