An autologous stem cell transplant involves four steps:
1. Stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow or peripheral (circulating) blood of the patient. In some cases, these stem cells are treated to kill cancerous cells.
2. The patient receives high doses of chemotherapy with or without radiation in an attempt to destroy cancerous cells. The chemo also destroys the patient’s marrow.
3. Through the vein, the patient receives his or her marrow or blood stem cells that have already been harvested. The process is much like a blood transfusion. The stem cells find their way through the blood stream to the center of the long bones. This process is required to restore the patient’s marrow, which is needed for the immune system to work properly.
4. While the patient recovers, he or she may receive blood products, antibiotics and anti-viral drugs. This therapy helps the new bone marrow to become established in the patient.