For cancer patients, the use of hematopoietic stem cell transplants can be a game changer in terms of treatment and recovery. However, most people have to undergo a combination of chemotherapy and radiation before transplants become an option.
Chemotherapy and radiation are used as a prelude to stem cell transplants in a process known as conditioning, writes associate editor Ryan Cross. This allows doctors to eliminate diseased cells in the body and make room for healthy ones, but conditioning can be very tough; it also kills healthy cells and can cause significant side effects, making recovery much more difficult. Therefore, stem cell transplants are often underused. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies are now working to develop new targeted conditioning therapies with fewer side effects, which would allow more patients to safely undergo stem cell treatments.
The most promising approaches include using antibodies to target specific proteins on hematopoietic stem cells in a patient’s body and kill those cells. The goal is to make room for new stem cells from the transplant and avoid the collateral damage that chemotherapy and radiation cause to other cells. Experts believe this targeted conditioning will result in fewer side effects and could be applied to patients with cancer, genetic diseases, and autoimmune diseases who wish to receive stem cell transplants. While there is reason for optimism based on early findings, scientists warn that this new method may not completely address the problems of side effects and immune rejection, and may not be suitable for all types of cancer. In the meantime, work continues to advance stem cell therapies, with the goal of better results and fewer complications.
With arrangemsnt from Chemical & Engineering News ACS