Treating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Patients with Stem Cells
Back in the day, doctors are reluctant to give patients high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For those of you who do not know, the aforementioned therapies are known to kill any existing cancers found in the body.
The reason why they are hesitant to give high doses of the said treatments is due to the fact that the procedures can actually kill the innocent and healthy cells in the body as well. In fact, it has been known that high doses of cancer-killing drugs stunt the production of blood cells in the patient’s bone marrow.
However, bone marrow transplants (or stem cell transplants) can actually help the patient’s bone marrow recover. It is after uncovering this fact that doctors nowadays are able to give high doses of chemotherapy/radiation without the fear of killing the bone marrow of the patient.
That being said, stem cell transplants can actually be used to help people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma recover.
What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts developing in the person’s white blood cells known as Lymphocytes. It can affect mostly adults, but this is not to exclude children since there have been some cases where it can also affect them as well.
There is another type of disease and that is the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but that is a topic for another time.
Stem Cell Treatments
There are actually two main stem cell transplants that doctors in the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They are the Autologous and the Allogeneic. From this point onward, I will call them SCT (Stem Cell Transplants) for brevity.
In Autologous SCT, the stem cells are derived from the patient’s body. It is extracted before the chemotherapy session and then it is preserved until the right time arrives. The body of the patient will be ‘primed’ wherein they will be given a series of chemotherapy along with some radiation therapy to kill existing cancer cells. Autologous SCT is usually given as the first measure and in most cases, it provides a big chance of success.
In the event that Autologous SCTs fail, then the doctor would have to resort to the Allogeneic SCT instead. This is where the stem cells of a suitable donor will be transplanted to the patient’s body. To know if the person is compatible with the patient, the doctor will draw a blood sample from the donor and see their HLA type. If it matches with the patient’s tissue type, they can begin the extraction process. Once harvested, the stem cells will be frozen to preserve its potency and it will be used when the time is right.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Aside from getting a headache, soreness, general loss of appetite, and any other minor side effects, there are some life-threatening ones as well.
For instance, a person who undergoes an allogeneic SCT might contract the GVHD or the Graft Versus Host Disease. This is where the newly formed immune system can attack the person’s organs resulting in complication and possible organ failure.
That is why the doctors make sure that the transplanted stem cells are compatible with the patient before it gets injected.