Autologous stem cell transplant

An autologous stem cell transplant uses healthy blood stem cells from your own body to replace bone marrow that's not working properly. An autologous stem cell transplant is also called an autologous bone marrow transplant.

Using cells from your own body during your stem cell transplant offers some advantages over stem cells from a donor. For example, you don't need to worry about incompatibility between the donor's cells and your own cells if you have an autologous stem cell transplant.

An autologous stem cell transplant might be an option if your body is producing enough healthy bone marrow cells. Those cells can be collected, frozen and stored for later use.

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Why it's done

Autologous stem cell transplants are typically used in people who need to undergo high doses of chemotherapy and radiation to cure their diseases. These treatments are likely to damage the bone marrow. An autologous stem cell transplant helps to replace the damaged bone marrow.

An autologous stem cell transplant is most often used to treat:

  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Plasma cell disorders

What you can expect

Undergoing an autologous stem cell transplant involves:

  • Taking medications to increase the number of stem cells in your blood. You'll receive medications that cause your stem cells to increase in number and to move out of your bone marrow and into your blood, where they can be easily collected.
  • Filtering stem cells from your blood. For stem cell collection, a needle is inserted into a vein in your arm to draw out your blood. A machine filters out the stem cells and the rest of your blood is returned to your body.

    A preservative is added to your stem cells and then they're frozen and stored for later use.

  • Undergoing high doses of cancer treatment (conditioning). During the conditioning process, you'll receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy — or sometimes both treatments — to kill your cancer cells. The treatments you undergo depend on your disease and your particular situation.

    The cancer treatments used during the conditioning process carry a risk of side effects. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect from your treatment.

  • Receiving an infusion of stem cells. Your stem cells will be infused into your bloodstream, where they will travel to your bone marrow and begin creating new blood cells.

After your autologous stem cell transplant, you'll remain under close medical care. You'll meet with your care team frequently to watch for side effects and to monitor your body's response to the transplant.

March 28, 2024
  1. Blood and marrow stem cell transplantation guide. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.
  2. Blood and bone marrow transplant. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.
  3. Diseases treatable by transplants. National Marrow Donor Program. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.