Chemotherapy on Stem Cells

Aside from surgery and other therapies such as hormonal therapy, radiation, and immunotherapy, chemotherapy would be one of the more popular and preferred treatments for cancer. Patients, whether in the early or later stage of the disease, are supposed to be given a new lease on life with chemotherapy.

However, a few cancer cells have already developed resistance from the carcinogenic drug/s they use in chemotherapy and may cause a relapse or worse, metastasis. Furthermore, with high doses of chemotherapy, one has a good chance of killing all cancerous cells, but it also kills other cells particularly the cells in the bone marrow called stem cells.

Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that give rise to specialized cells. It specialized cells within your blood, cells in your liver, and cells in your muscles through a process called differentiation. When the stem cell divides, the new cells can either remain as stem cells or become other cells with a specialized function.

Two main types of stem cells, for those who found in adults, and those who found in embryos.

Somatic or adult stem cells. are used to repair and maintain tissues in which they are found. These can be found in the brain, skin, and bone marrow. During a bone marrow transplant, stem cells are injected into a patient whose bone marrow was damaged somehow. The unspecialized stem cells, then, create new bone marrow allowing for the body to produce healthy blood cells again. For organ and tissue regeneration, stem cells can be use also. If the cells differentiate in just the right way, they can act as a renewable source of replacement cells.

Embryonic stem cells. on the other hand, it can differentiate and produce insulin-producing cells that can treat people with Type 1 diabetes. These cells are not obtained from the fertilized eggs on a woman’s body; instead, they are gathered from eggs in in-vitro fertilization clinics which are willingly donated.

Stem Cell Transplant

            The bone marrow is a part of the human bone which makes blood cells. It is where hematopoietic stem cells can be found. In most cases, cancer cells block the development of stem cells, thus, the production of blood cells is deprived. For patients who suffer from blood production-related cancer such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and types of lymphoma, a bone marrow transplant is needed. In the past, stem cells are transplanted with the whole bone marrow. But today, stem cells can be collected from the blood which is now called stem cell transplant.

Types of Stem Cell Transplants

There are two main types of transplant based from where the stem cells comes from:

Autologous stem cell transplant and the Allogeneic stem cell transplant.

In Autologous type. The stem cells will be removed from one’s own blood before any treatment that potentially destroys them. It may be taken from either one’s bone marrow or blood then frozen. The patient will not have to worry about new stem cells attacking his body or any possible infection from a donor. However, there is still a possibility of graft failure. As expected, cells are fail to go into the bone marrow and make blood cells, . Autologous transplants cannot also offer the graft-versus-cancer effect.

Allogeneic type on the other hand, gathers stem cells from a donor who closely matches the patient’s tissue. The best donors are immediate family members, usually from a brother or a sister. In cases where there is no immediate family member capable of donating, a donor can be found publicly. A new source of stem taken from the placenta and umbilical cord of newborns called cord blood.

Despite the lesser amount of blood, cord blood contains a higher quantity of stem cells which multiply quickly. However, the volume of stem cells found on cord blood can only be used for children and smaller adults because it cannot supply the needs of a full grown person. Thus, an approach called dual-cord-blood transplant is needed. In this technique, two cord blood from 2 babies supply the needs of a full grown adult. The donated stem cells produce their own immune cells which kill cancer cells left by the recent treatment or the graft-versus-cancer.

With the fame the dual-cord-blood transplant has achieved, many are moved to try this cancer treatment. Cell regeneration has also been the trend to maintain youth for most socialites and celebrities, making the treatment dual-purpose. However, like any other treatment, complexities may arise in both internal and external aspects of the method. It is best to invest in the things our body needs to maintain its optimal function, such as vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to avoid the onset of illnesses.


Image by Tareq Salahuddin / CC BY 2.0