Cancer Home > Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma

The stem cells that are transplanted for multiple myeloma treatment may be the person's own or they may come from a donor. Some people may need more than one transplant. However, this treatment does allow a person to receive high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Side effects include an increased risk of infection and bleeding, among other things.

What Is a Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma?

A stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma allows a person to receive high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of both. High doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy destroy both myeloma cells and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. Therefore, people will need healthy stem cells (from a stem cell transplant), which will create new blood cells.
In this procedure, stem cells are transplanted through a flexible tube placed in a large vein in the neck or chest area. Transplants are performed in the hospital, and some people will need more than one.

Where Do the Stem Cells Come From?

Stem cells may come from the affected person or from a donor. Types of transplants include:
  • Autologous stem cell transplantation: This type of transplant uses the person's own stem cells. These are removed from the person, treated to kill myeloma cells that may be present, and then frozen and stored. After the person receives high-dose treatment, the stored stem cells are thawed and returned to him or her.
  • Allogeneic stem cell transplantation: Sometimes, healthy stem cells from a donor are available. The person's brother, sister, or parent may be the donor, or the stem cells may come from an unrelated donor. Doctors will use blood tests to make sure that the donor's cells match the person's cells.
  • Syngeneic stem cell transplantation: This type of stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma uses stem cells from the person's healthy identical twin.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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