What has further enabled easy harvesting of these stem cells is the use of HGF ( hematopoietic Growth Factors) . HGFs play a vital role in the entire development cycle of blood cells from stem cells stage to their maturity and help generate large number of cells that are easy to harvest in viable numbers. Patients that are being prepared for a transplant are first administered HGF injections to increase their WBC as well as their peripheral stem cell counts. The harvesting of these cells is then far more easy and a lot quicker saving valuable time.
These cells are then infused in the patient and made to grow new blood stem cells in an accelerated fashion thereby minimizing the risk of infection in the patient ( an extremely important factor in the transplant process) and also enabling a much shorter timeframe for the entire process. Overall, there are two types of transplants---autologous and allogenic. In autologous transplant, the stem cell is derived from the same person who is undergoing the transplant. This is primarily used to deliver very high doses of chemptherapy to the patient which would have otherwise not been possible because of tremendous damage that high dose chemo causes to the bone marrow. The allogenic transplant on the other hand essentially requires a donor who in most cases is a sibling. The donor needs to be tested and HLA matched before being selected.There is only a 25% probability that one sibling will be HLA matched to another sibling. In smaller families, therefore, it becomes rather improbable to be able to find a matched donor.
The other possible options are to have a partially matched sibling or a matched unrelated donor. Using partially mathced siblings for a transplant is a riskier endeavour and will require even more intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy regimens. The other possibility of finding a matched unrelated donor can be a game of chance unless one gets very lucky and through random testing a match is sudeenly found. A National registry, however, with a HLA database will go a long way in tackling this challenge. In US there is a National Marrow Donor Program which is a central depository of over 5 Million HLA matched volunteers. The database is also linked with the regisrties of various other countires for international matching. The allogenic transplant,therefore, is a much more complex exercise with significant risk of graft rejection as well. The success rates of partially matched and matched unrelated donor based transplants is lower than the matched sibling donors based transplants and also only a few centres attempt to do the former. However, the scope of stem cell transplantation is large and very promising for the future and provides a ray of hope for the patients and in some cases the only possibility of any kind of cure whatsoever. We are in the process of setting up a world class transplant programme at International Oncology's cancer centre at Fortis Noida. Let us work towards leveraging the great potential that this tehcnology offers becuase "Every Life Matters"