High-dose treatment with stem cell support (transplant) for active myeloma

You may be offered high-dose treatment with a stem cell transplant. This will depend on your general health. This treatment may improve the chances of controlling the myeloma in the long term.

You may hear people call this treatment an autologous stem cell transplant. In myeloma, it’s more common to use your own stem cells (autologous transplant) than stem cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant). Stem cells are early blood cells.

If your doctor thinks this treatment is suitable for you, they will discuss it with you in more detail. Stem cell transplants are only done in specialist hospital units. You will usually stay in hospital for a few weeks.

The first stage of the treatment is called induction chemotherapy. This puts the myeloma into remission (where there are few or no signs of the myeloma cells). Once you are in remission, your stem cells can be collected and stored to be given back to you after treatment. The stem cells are mainly collected (harvested) from the blood, but they can also be collected from the bone marrow.

You will then have high-dose treatment with chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy. You will have much higher doses of chemotherapy than usual.

As well as destroying myeloma cells, the high-dose treatment also destroys healthy stem cells in the bone marrow. To help you recover from the high-dose treatment, you will be given a drip (infusion) of your stem cells afterwards. The stem cells go to the bone marrow, where they start producing new blood cells.

Other treatments with stem cells are being used or researched in some hospitals. These include:

  • allogeneic transplants using donor stem cells
  • mini-transplants, which involve less intense chemotherapy
  • having a second transplant if myeloma comes back.

Back to Stem cell and bone marrow transplants explained

Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings after your treatment. Talking to those close to you can help.