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Bone marrow and stem cell transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about bone marrow and stem cell transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma. There is information about

 

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Bone marrow and stem cell transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma

If  Hodgkin lymphoma comes back after treatment your doctor may suggest a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. This is high dose chemotherapy, and sometimes total body radiotherapy, followed by a drip of stem cells or bone marrow. This intensive treatment can get rid of the lymphoma again for many people. Your doctor may also suggest this treatment if your Hodgkin lymphoma does not respond to standard treatment.

About bone marrow or stem cell transplants

Stem cells are the cells in our bone marrow that produce blood cells. After high dose chemotherapy the stem cells are destroyed. So you need to have a drip of stem cells or bone marrow into your bloodstream to replace them. The stem cells go from the bloodstream and into the bone marrow. They then start to make blood cells again. 

Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma have their own marrow or stem cells given back after the high dose treatment. This is called an autologous transplant. It is possible to have a transplant of someone else’s bone marrow or stem cells (an allogeneic transplant). The stem cells or bone marrow are collected from you or the donor before you have the high dose chemotherapy. 

Most often you have the bone marrow or stem cells of a close relative because they are more likely to closely match your own. Doctors are still learning how best to use allogeneic transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma. We have detailed information about bone marrow and stem cell transplants in our section about cancer treatment.

 

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When you may have a transplant for Hodgkin lymphoma

Some people with Hodgkin lymphoma have treatment with very high dose chemotherapy and sometimes a form of radiotherapy called total body irradiation (TBI) as well. Doctors usually use this intensive treatment if Hodgkin lymphoma comes back after the first course of treatment. It can get rid of the lymphoma again for many people. Your doctor may also suggest this treatment if your Hodgkin lymphoma has not responded to the standard treatment.

 

What bone marrow and stem cell transplants are

Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are techniques used to replace the stem cells that are killed off by intensive treatment with high dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Stem cells are the cells in our bone marrow that produce blood cells. After high dose chemotherapy the stem cells are destroyed. So you need to have a drip of stem cells or bone marrow into your bloodstream to replace them. The stem cells go from the bloodstream and into the bone marrow. They then start to make blood cells again. The stem cells or bone marrow for the transplant are collected from you or a donor before you have the high dose chemotherapy. 

These treatments are sometimes called bone marrow or stem cell rescue because the bone marrow or stem cells rescue you from the effects of your cancer treatment. Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma have their own bone marrow or stem cells given back after the high dose treatment. This is called an autologous transplant or high dose therapy

It is possible to have a transplant of someone else’s bone marrow or stem cells (an allogeneic transplant). Most often you have the bone marrow or stem cells of a close relative because they are more likely to closely match your own. And so your body is less likely to reject the new cells. This type of transplant has many side effects and risks, and you have to be fit and well enough to have it. Your doctor might consider it in the following situations

  • Your lymphoma has come back after a transplant using your own cells (autologous)
  • Your lymphoma is quite advanced and is in your bone marrow

Doctors are still learning how best to use allogeneic transplants for Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Updated: 13 June 2013