Types of Stem Cell Transplant

Types of Stem Cell Transplant for Blood Cancer

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center offers several types of stem cell transplants, including:

  • Allogeneic transplant — Blood stem cells collected from a donor who is a close genetic match to the recipient are infused into the patient after the patient receives chemotherapy or chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These donor cells will grow into new donor-derived blood and immune systems.
  • Autologous transplant — The stem cells are collected from the patient prior to being treated with high dose chemotherapy, following which, they are re-introduced back into the patient to reconstitute the blood and immune systems.

Allogeneic stem cell transplants

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the oldest and most widely used form of adoptive immunotherapy. It is used to cure a number of blood cancers and other noncancerous blood disorders. Some diseases that are treated with allogeneic stem cell transplantation include:

  • Leukemias
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Lymphomas

First, stem cells are collected from related or unrelated donors who are a close genetic match to the recipient. Recipients then receive a “conditioning regimen” that includes chemotherapy, radiation, or both, which eradicates the unhealthy bone marrow and blood cancer cells, and helps to prevent the patient’s immune system from rejecting the donor cells. Finally, the donor stem cells are infused in to the recipient’s bloodstream, where they will find their way back to the bone marrow and restart the production of blood and immune cells.

The anti-cancer benefit is not only from the chemotherapy and radiation, but also from donor immune cells that can recognize cancer cells as being foreign (that is, not from the donor). These immune cells can then kill the cancer cells, mediating the so called “graft-versus-leukemia” [GVL] effect.

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant outcomes have improved significantly over the past several decades, especially in preventing and treating complications that are related to the transplant. Some of these complications include infection and graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), a process where the donor immune system may attack the recipient’s normal cells, including the skin, liver and gastrointestinal tract. Physicians and researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center are committed to understanding and identifying the different mechanisms of GVHD and GVL in order to maximize the benefits of donor cells while minimizing the complications.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has been performing allogeneic stem cell transplants for more than 30 years. The transplant program is on the cutting edge of the most recent scientific advances that have translated into clinical benefit for our patients, including the use of lower intensity conditioning regimens to allow older patients to undergo transplant, the use of haploidentical donors (related donors who are a genetic half-match) to improve available donor options, and stem cell graft manipulation techniques to maximize GVL and minimize GVHD.

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center also offers clinical trials in blood and marrow transplantation. One of our allogeneic stem cell transplant trials is based on the research of Warren Shlomchik, MD, the co-director of the blood and marrow transplant program. Dr. Shlomchik’s group discovered that a type of immune cell, called naïve T cells, is especially potent at causing GVHD. He and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed a method of removing these T cells from the donor stem cell graft. Thus far the results from clinical trials are very encouraging. Learn more about this clinical trial.

Autologous stem cell transplants

Autologous transplantation uses a patient’s own stem cells to allow the administration of doses chemotherapy so high that the normal blood cells would not recover. It is used to treat a number of blood cancers, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

First, stem cells are collected from a patient after medication is used to get stem cells to move from the bone marrow to the bloodstream. Patients then receive high dose chemotherapy in order to kill cancer cells. Finally, the stem cells are infused back into the patient’s bloodstream, where they will find their way back into the bone marrow and restart production of blood and immune cells.

Contact Us About Stem Cell Transplant for Blood Cancer

To learn more or make an appointment, call the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers, call 412-864-6600.