Patients who are having problems with bone marrow function and low blood counts (also called cytopenia) could benefit from use of frozen stem cells they make have collected for a stem cell transplant, according to Sergio Giralt, MD, Deputy Division Head in the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Giralt says:
"Those cells should not be wasted. This is a valuable resource for patients and their health."
Types of cytopenias can include:
- Anemia: a low level of red blood cells
- Leukopenia: a low level of white blood cells
- Thrombocytopenia: a low level of platelets
- Pancytopenia: a deficiency of all three parts of the blood
Dr. Giralt shares an example of a patient who had stem cells in the freezer from his first collection. He was suffering from low blood counts, so Dr. Giralt gave him some of the stem cells to help reconstitute his bone marrow function. Because of that, the patient was able to receive his next treatment.
Dr. Giralt's advice is that if you have collected stem cells, you most likely have extra cells in the freezer. Sometimes patients and providers can forget this if they move to a local center for care or go to another academic center. But he suggests that you call the center where your stem cell collection was performed and find out exactly how many stem cells you have saved in the freezer.
These frozen cells have likely not been exposed to any chemotherapy, so they may be stronger and more robust.
Uses for Frozen Stem Cells
Your doctor can use the frozen stem cells:
1) As a boost after regular chemotherapy
2) As a boost to get blood counts to recover after long-term myeloma treatment
3) To boost of a patient's blood counts so that a patient can become eligible for a clinical trial
4) For patients with an infection where their marrow was affected
This is something patients and physicans don't discuss on a regular basis, so we are grateful to Dr. Giralt for highlighting this important idea for us all!
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).