High-dose Chemotherapy and Stem Cell Transplantation
While many cancers respond well to chemotherapy, some cancers—like those that have returned after treatment—require a higher dose of chemotherapy drugs. Because high-dose chemotherapy can be extremely damaging to your bone marrow, it can only be provided with a stem cell transplant (also called a bone marrow transplant).
Why choose the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center for high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation?
The Cancer Center is a premier cancer research and treatment facility and the only cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Central and South Texas. Many drugs and therapies that now are standard care for hematological (blood) diseases were developed at the cancer center.
A stem cell transplant is a complex treatment that requires highly trained staff and specialized equipment. Our physicians in the Division of Hematology/Oncology specialize in this and other advanced treatments for:
Our team of experts will give you undivided attention and the full benefit of their extensive skill. The cancer center also offers patients access to clinical trials that cannot be found anywhere else.
How does high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation work?
A stem cell transplant lets doctors give higher doses of chemotherapy (and/or radiation therapy) than would otherwise be possible. A stem cell transplant restores bone marrow that is damaged during chemotherapy treatment. It is important to restore your bone marrow because this is where your blood cells are made.
If you are a candidate for high-dose chemotherapy:
- Your stem cells are collected weeks before your treatment. The cells are frozen and stored.
- Your high-dose chemotherapy treatment is given the same way as normal chemotherapy, often intravenously through a catheter into a vein (IV).
- After receiving a high-dose chemotherapy treatment, you will receive your stem cells through an IV.
If you cannot produce enough of your own stem cells, you may receive stem cells from a donor. The donor’s tissue type (also known as the HLA type) needs to match your tissue type as closely as possible to help prevent problems with the transplant.
What are the side effects of high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation?
Short-term side effects of this treatment can include:
- Low blood cell counts (with fatigue and increased risks of infection and bleeding)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
Long-term side effects may not happen until years after the transplant. These can include:
- Loss of fertility
- Damage to the thyroid gland
- Cataracts (damage to the eye that can affect vision)
- Shortness of breath caused by damage to the lungs
- Bone damage
- The development of another cancer, such as leukemia, several years later
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is also a risk in patients who received donated stem cells. With GVHD, the newly transplanted cells regard your body as foreign and attack it.
Make an appointment
To request an appointment or to make a referral to one of our physicians, please call 210-450-1000.
For information about cancer treatment or cancer trials, please call the Cancer Information Line: 1-800-340-2872.