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Stem Cell Transplantation

Stem cell transplantation is a procedure in which patients receive healthy stem cells to replace their own stem cells that have been destroyed by cancer or cancer treatments. The goal of stem cell transplantation is to cure the patient by destroying the cancer cells with high doses of chemotherapy and then to help the body start a new supply of blood cells.

Stem cell transplantation is higher risk than chemotherapy alone or in combination with radiation therapy. The effectiveness of therapies for newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) patients has reduced the need for stem cell transplantation and it isn't recommended for initial treatment of HL patients. However, it may provide a cure for patients with disease that is relapsed (returned after treatment) or refractory (does not respond to treatment).

The two types of stem cell transplantation are:

  • Autologous stem cell transplantation is a procedure in which stem cells are removed from a patient, frozen and stored, and then returned to the patient’s bloodstream to after intensive chemotherapy. In almost all cases, this is the type of stem cell transplantation used to treat HL. It remains the standard therapy for relapsed and refractory cases of HL. 
    • Brentuximab vedotin is also sometimes given to treat patients before transplant or administered in select patients as maintenance treatment after autologous stem cell transplantation.
  • Allogeneic stem cell transplantation is a treatment that uses stem cells from a matched donor. This type of transplantation has been successful in some patients with HL after several relapses of the disease, but it is not commonly used as a treatment for HL. It is generally only done if the disease relapses after an autologous transplantation.

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