Stem cell transplants
Stem cell transplants are sometimes integrated with one’s cancer treatment plan as a complement to chemotherapy. Stem cell transplants allow patients to receive higher doses of chemotherapy in the hopes of killing cancer cells on a larger scale or more quickly. The problem with these high doses of chemotherapy is that they kill off both red and white blood cells in the bone marrow. When stem cells are killed off due to the high doses of chemotherapy, the body cannot create any new cells to replace the healthy cells that were killed during chemotherapy.
Stem cell transplants offer a solution to this problem. It allows patients to undergo these higher doses of chemotherapy and still replace the cells afterwards, when they get new stem cells reinserted into their bodies post-treatment. Autologous transplants are stem cell transplants in which stem cells are taken from a patient’s body before treatment, and reinserted after. However, non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients aren’t eligible for this autologous transplant (stem cell transplants in which a patient receives their own stem cells removed prior to treatment back after chemotherapy), as it could reintroduce the lymphoma to the patient’s body when the cells are reinserted. This means that NHL patients must undergo allogeneic stem cell transplants, in which they receive a donor’s stem cells. However, it can be difficult to find a donor for these transplants.