Stem cell transplantation does not usually directly treat hematologic cancer. Its main use in hematologic cancer therapy is to restore the function of the bone marrow after it has been impaired by invasion with cancer cells or by its treatment. Stem cell transplantation is most commonly used after high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy have destroyed many of the normal cells in the bone marrow. Without the option of stem cell transplantation, such potent anticancer therapy is not possible and the chances of cure are less. Stem cell transplantation can also be administered after less strong doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which do not destroy all the cancer cells in the bone marrow. In this situation, the infused cells will not only produce normal blood cells to replace those lacking because of the cancer or therapy, but white blood cells which are often present in the stem cell mixture may directly attack and destroy the cancer cells.
Mary Reed, MD
Specialty: Hematology & Oncology
- Hematology & Oncology
- Internal Medicine
Location and Office HoursVia Christi Hospital
1 Mt Carmel Way
Pittsburg, KS 66762
- How does stem cell transplantation treat hematologic cancer?
How do hematologic cancers affect the body?
Hematologic cancers primarily affect the body by interfering with the production of normal blood cells in the bone marrow and lymphatic system. The bone marrow is the site of production for all three of the main types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The lymphatic system (primarily the lymph nodes) is also responsible for the production of white blood cells. Blood cancers originate from cells in the lymphatic system and bone marrow, and as the cells continue to multiply and spread throughout these tissues, they limit the ability of lymphatic system and bone marrow to produce normal cells. Because there are so few normal cells and because the cancer cells have minimal or nonexistent functionality, the blood becomes unable to perform its normal functions, such as forming clots to stop bleeding, fighting off infections, and transporting oxygen to all the body's cells.
How does immunotherapy affect my hematologic cancer?
Immunotherapy is becoming increasingly utilized for many hematologic cancers. Although chemotherapy remains the mainstay of treatment in most cases, immunotherapy may be useful as additional therapy in some types and stages of hematologic cancers. Immunotherapy uses components of the immune system - either cells or antibodies - to destroy cancer cells. The main form of immunotherapy involves the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). These are molecules manufactured in laboratories that specifically attach to the surface of cancer cells. They either directly destroy the cancer cell or are combined with a toxin or radioactive molecule that kills the cancer cell. By attaching specifically to cancer cells, mAb drugs cause much fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs. Other forms of immunotherapy include vaccines and donor lymphocyte infusion.
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