Often enough a lot of patients are put in front of the decision of what cancer treatment they should use. Lately new ways of treating this debilitating disease have arisen with the new wave of studies about stem cell therapy. However, chemotherapy and stem cells treatment are often used together. Studies have shown that high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant together are far more effective against the bone cancer multiple myeloma than standard chemo. Or should we choose one or the other?
Chemotherapy is the type of Cancer Treatments most commonly used nowadays. Chemotherapeutic drugs work by stopping mitosis or cell division and effectively making fast-dividing cells their target. Tumors with high growth rates are more sensitive to chemotherapy, as a larger proportion of the targeted cells are going through cell division at any time. The disadvantages of chemotherapy are the side effects. Common effects include:
-Gastrointestinal symptoms like: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. In time, if left untreated they can lead to malnutrition or dehydration. It is recommended to eat frequent small meals and to drink liquids;
-Hair loss or thinning of the hair;
-Damage to some organs like: heart, liver, kidney, inner ear or brain;
-Anemia and/or fatigue;
-Red or dry skin, damaged fingernails, xerostomia, water retention.
Also another disadvantage is that chemotherapy can raise your chances to have, in time, a second neoplasm. And some types of chemotherapy can cause infertility. Plus chemotherapy does not always work as cancer treatments, especially in patients with advanced types and sometimes fail to completely destroy the cancer.
Stem Cell Therapy for cancer implies, in a typical stem cell transplant,very high doses of chemo, often along with radiation therapy with the purpose to destroy all of the cancer. These cancer treatments also kill the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, very much like a blood transfusion. In time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells. The stem cell transplants can be: autologous stem cell transplant (stem cells are taken before you get cancer treatment), tandem transplant which is also called a double autologous transplant (in a tandem transplant, the patient gets 2 courses of high-dose chemo, each followed by a transplant of their own stem cells), allogeneic (the cells come from a matched related or unrelated donor) and syngeneic (the cells come from identical twins or triplets). Also research publishedfinds that injection of human stem cells into mice with tumors slowed down tumor growth. Human stem cells isolated from bone marrow, caused changes in blood vessels around the tumor, and it is this modification of blood supply which seems to impact tumor growth, slowing it down. Other studies found that stem cells force tumors to enter programmed cell death. However other studies find that stem cells actually promote tumor growth by the apparition of new blood vessels.
So basically stem cells in cancer treatment are a supportive type of treatment that helps chemotherapy for the moment. Further studies and clinical trials are needed to make stem cell therapy a valid option beside chemotherapy.
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