Stem cell transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma
If Hodgkin lymphoma comes back (relapses or recurs) or doesn’t respond completely to initial treatment (refractory disease), you may need a stem cell transplant. However, stem cell transplants are used less often now than in the past.
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A stem cell transplant is a demanding treatment and is not suitable for everyone, especially people with other health problems. The entire procedure, including recovery, can take months.
Before the stem cell transplant, you will have a high dose of chemotherapy. You will need to repeat tests, such as PET–CT scans and blood tests, throughout the treatment.
Stem cells are unspecialised blood cells that can develop into white or red blood cells or platelets. For a transplant, stem cells can be taken from the bloodstream (peripheral blood stem cell transplant), bone marrow (bone marrow transplant) or, rarely, umbilical cord blood (cord blood transplant).
Types of stem cell transplants
There are 2 main types of stem cell transplants.
Autologous transplant – when your stem cells are removed from your blood and later put back (infused) into your body. This is the most common type of transplant used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. An autologous transplant is done in several steps.
Allogeneic transplant – when the stem cells are collected from another person (a donor). In this type of transplant, donor blood stem cells are used to rebuild the immune system and prevent relapse.
There is a risk of graft-versus-host disease (when the immune cells in the transplanted tissue attack the person’s cells) with this type of transplant, and it is not often used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.
For more information about stem cell transplants, talk to your transplant team, or visit the Leukaemia Foundation.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Mark Hertzberg AM, Head, Department of Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital; Dr Puja Bhattacharyya, Haematology Staff Specialist, Western Sydney Local Health District – Blacktown Hospital; A/Prof Susan Carroll, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital and University of Sydney; Gerry Flanagan, Consumer; Alisha Ganesh, Haematology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Repatriation General Hospital; Kelly King, Cancer Council Liaison, Central Coast Cancer Centre; Ilana Krug, Social Worker – Haematology and Oncology, Gosford Hospital; Amy McGee, Consumer.
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