High-dose treatment with stem cell support for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Stem cells are early blood cells. They to make all the other types of blood cells you need. Some people with NHL may have a stem cell transplant as part of their treatment. This helps their body make new blood cells after chemotherapy.

Most people won’t need a stem cell transplant. But it may be used to treat types of NHL that don’t respond well to standard chemotherapy. It’s also sometimes used to treat NHL that has come back after treatment.

First, you are given chemotherapy to get rid of the lymphoma. You are then given your own stem cells, or stem cells from a donor, as an infusion into your bloodstream. The stem cells go to your bone marrow where, after a few days, they will begin making new blood cells. Until your blood cell numbers have recovered, you will be at risk of infection and will need to stay in hospital.

This is an intensive treatment. You will go to a specialist hospital and usually be an inpatient for two weeks or more. Your lymphoma specialist can discuss with you whether or not a stem cell transplant is necessary.

Stem cell transplants for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Stem cells are early blood cells, which are able to make all the different types of blood cell you need. There are two types of stem cell transplant. One uses your own stem cells, and the other uses stem cells from someone else (a donor).

Most people who have NHL will not need a stem cell transplant. But it may be used to treat types of NHL that don’t respond well to the most commonly used chemotherapy treatments. It is also sometimes used to treat people who have NHL that has come back (relapsed) after treatment.

A stem cell transplant is an intensive treatment. It is only suitable for people who are fit enough to cope with the side effects. If it is recommended as part of your treatment, your doctor will discuss the possible benefits and disadvantages with you.

Because stem cell transplants are complicated treatments and carry some risk, they are done in specialist hospitals. This means you may have to be treated in a hospital some distance from your home.

Research is being done to find out how best to use stem cell transplants to treat NHL. Your specialist may talk to you about having a stem cell transplant as part of a cancer research trial.


Having a stem cell transplant

Before a stem cell transplant, you have chemotherapy to put the lymphoma into remission. After this, stem cells are collected from either your own blood or your donor’s blood. The stem cells are frozen and stored until you have had more chemotherapy (and sometimes radiotherapy). This is given to get rid of any remaining lymphoma cells and to prepare your bone marrow for the transplant.

After this, you are given the stem cells into your blood through a drip. The stem cells make their way to your bone marrow. After a few weeks, your bone marrow begins to make blood cells again.

Until your bone marrow recovers, you are at a high risk of getting an infection and will need to stay in hospital.


High -dose treatment with stem cell support

This involves you being given your own stem cells. The main benefit of it is that it allows you to have much higher doses of chemotherapy to treat the lymphoma.


Donor (allogeneic) stem cell transplant

In this type of transplant, you are given stem cells from another person (a donor). The donor’s stem cells help your bone marrow recover from chemotherapy. They also give you a new immune system that can fight any remaining lymphoma.

We have more information about high-dose treatment with stem cell support, and donor stem cell transplants, which explains these treatments in detail.