People with bone marrow cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia often benefit from bone marrow or stem cell transplant treatment along with chemotherapy or radiation, states WebMD. This treatment is also used for neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma and is under study for other types of cancers.
Chemotherapy and radiation are forms of treatment for cancer; they kill cancer cells but also destroy the body's bone marrow, which is the factory for blood cells, according to WebMD. As a result, the damage from chemotherapy and radiation makes the treatment harmful to the body.
Undergoing a transplant of stem cells or bone marrow aims to provide the body with healthy bone marrow and blood cells after the radiation and chemotherapy phases are complete. After an effective transplant, the bone marrow starts making new blood cells. The transplant can also cause the new blood cells to attack cancer cells that made it through the first treatment, although this does not happen in all cases, notes WebMD.
Stem cells are different from other cells in that they can divide to form different types of blood cells, such as red and white blood cells and platelets, explains WebMD. Because the process is hard on the patient, many doctors limit transplants to people younger than 50 or 70.