Stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplants

This treatment may be an option for some younger people with CLL. Your doctor will discuss with you if it might be suitable.

Stem cell transplants are only carried out in specialist cancer treatment centres. It allows you to have higher doses of chemotherapy than usual. It’s an intensive treatment and side effects can be severe. However, it may result in a long period of remission.

Stem cells are found inside our bone marrow. They make all the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the blood.

There are two types of stem cell transplant:

  • Autologous transplants – uses your own stem cells (also known as high-dose treatment with stem cell support).
  • Allogeneic transplants – when you are given stem cells from someone else (a donor).

Allogeneic transplants

This is most commonly used for people with CLL.

An allogeneic transplant uses stem cells that are matched from a brother or sister who is genetically similar to you. If you don’t have a brother or sister who can donate stem cells, another donor may be found who has stem cells that genetically match you. This is called a volunteer unrelated donor.

Before you’re given donor stem cells, you’ll have intensive chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy too. This destroys any remaining leukaemia cells and prepares your immune system for the donor stem cells. 

Some types of allogeneic transplant use less chemotherapy and radiotherapy than an autologous transplant, and are known as reduced intensity transplants.

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.