Stem cell transplants are usually done in 2 steps:
Recipients are usually admitted to the hospital for conditioning or intensive therapy and stem cell transplant.
The first step of the process may be referred to by different names, depending on the type of stem cell transplant. For an allogeneic or syngeneic transplant, the first step is usually called conditioning therapy or regimen (preparative therapy). For an autologous transplant, the first step is usually called intensive therapy.
Conditioning or intensive therapy is used to:
Conditioning or intensive therapy usually includes giving high doses of chemotherapy, sometimes followed by radiation therapy. These treatments vary depending on the disease being treated and the procedures of the transplant centre. The treatment is usually given over a few days.
Anticancer drugs are given into a vein (intravenously) through a central venous catheter (CVC).
The specific drugs depend on the disease being treated:
High-energy rays are used to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is given to the entire body. This is called total body irradiation (TBI).
The radiation therapy usually consists of 6 sessions:
The second step of the process is giving the stem cells (transplant). Stem cells are infused into the recipient’s blood. They eventually settle in the bone marrow, where they begin to multiply and mature.
The day the stem cells are given is usually referred to as Day 0. The days after the transplant are numbered upward (for example, Day 1, Day 2). This system is used to describe the timing of events, such as when new blood cells begin to appear (engraftment) or when complications occur.
The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.