Treatments other than Chemotherapy for Leukemias and Lymphomas
Author, Curator, Editor: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
2.5.1 Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy or irradiation, can be used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. The type of radiation used for radiotherapy (ionizing radiation) is the same that’s used for diagnostic x-rays. Radiotherapy, however, is given in higher doses.
Radiotherapy works by damaging the genetic material (DNA) within cells, which prevents them from growing and reproducing. Although the radiotherapy is directed at cancer cells, it can also damage nearby healthy cells. However, current methods of radiotherapy have been improved upon, minimizing “scatter” to nearby tissues. Therefore its benefit (destroying the cancer cells) outweighs its risk (harming healthy cells).
When radiotherapy is used for blood cancer treatment, it’s usually part of a treatment plan that includes drug therapy. Radiotherapy can also be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged liver, lymph node(s) or spleen.
Radiotherapy, either alone or with chemotherapy, is sometimes given as conditioning treatment to prepare a patient for a blood or marrow stem cell transplant. The most common types used to treat blood cancer are external beam radiation (see below) and radioimmunotherapy.
External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation is the type of radiotherapy used most often for people with blood cancers. A focused radiation beam is delivered outside the body by a machine called a linear accelerator, or linac for short. The linear accelerator moves around the body to deliver radiation from various angles. Linear accelerators make it possible to decrease or avoid skin reactions and deliver targeted radiation to lessen “scatter” of radiation to nearby tissues.
The dose (total amount) of radiation used during treatment depends on various factors regarding the patient, disease and reason for treatment, and is established by a radiation oncologist. You may receive radiotherapy during a series of visits, spread over several weeks (from two to 10 weeks, on average). This approach, called dose fractionation, lessens side effects. External beam radiation does not make you radioactive.
2.5.2 Bone marrow (BM) transplantation
There are three kinds of bone marrow transplants:
Autologous bone marrow transplant: The term auto means self. Stem cells are removed from you before you receive high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The stem cells are stored in a freezer (cryopreservation). After high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatments, your stems cells are put back in your body to make (regenerate) normal blood cells. This is called a rescue transplant.
Allogeneic bone marrow transplant: The term allo means other. Stem cells are removed from another person, called a donor. Most times, the donor’s genes must at least partly match your genes. Special blood tests are done to see if a donor is a good match for you. A brother or sister is most likely to be a good match. Sometimes parents, children, and other relatives are good matches. Donors who are not related to you may be found through national bone marrow registries.
Umbilical cord blood transplant: This is a type of allogeneic transplant. Stem cells are removed from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord right after birth. The stem cells are frozen and stored until they are needed for a transplant. Umbilical cord blood cells are very immature so there is less of a need for matching. But blood counts take much longer to recover.
Before the transplant, chemotherapy, radiation, or both may be given. This may be done in two ways:
Ablative (myeloablative) treatment: High-dose chemotherapy, radiation, or both are given to kill any cancer cells. This also kills all healthy bone marrow that remains, and allows new stem cells to grow in the bone marrow.
Reduced intensity treatment, also called a mini transplant: Patients receive lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation before a transplant. This allows older patients, and those with other health problems to have a transplant.
A stem cell transplant is usually done after chemotherapy and radiation is complete. The stem cells are delivered into your bloodstream usually through a tube called a central venous catheter. The process is similar to getting a blood transfusion. The stem cells travel through the blood into the bone marrow. Most times, no surgery is needed.
Donor stem cells can be collected in two ways:
- Bone marrow harvest. This minor surgery is done under general anesthesia. This means the donor will be asleep and pain-free during the procedure. The bone marrow is removed from the back of both hip bones. The amount of marrow removed depends on the weight of the person who is receiving it.
- Leukapheresis. First, the donor is given 5 days of shots to help stem cells move from the bone marrow into the blood. During leukapheresis, blood is removed from the donor through an IV line in a vein. The part of white blood cells that contains stem cells is then separated in a machine and removed to be later given to the recipient. The red blood cells are returned to the donor.
Why the Procedure is Performed
A bone marrow transplant replaces bone marrow that either is not working properly or has been destroyed (ablated) by chemotherapy or radiation. Doctors believe that for many cancers, the donor’s white blood cells can attach to any remaining cancer cells, similar to when white cells attach to bacteria or viruses when fighting an infection.
Your doctor may recommend a bone marrow transplant if you have:
Certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma
A disease that affects the production of bone marrow cells, such as aplastic anemia, congenital neutropenia, severe immunodeficiency syndromes, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia
Had chemotherapy that destroyed your bone
2.5.3 Autologous stem cell transplantation
Phase II trial of 131I-B1 (anti-CD20) antibody therapy with autologous stem cell transplantation for relapsed B cell lymphomas
O.W Press, F Appelbaum, P.J Martin, et al.
25 patients with relapsed B-cell lymphomas were evaluated with trace-labelled doses (2·5 mg/kg, 185-370 MBq [5-10 mCi]) of 131I-labelled anti-CD20 (B1) antibody in a phase II trial. 22 patients achieved 131I-B1 biodistributions delivering higher doses of radiation to tumor sites than to normal organs and 21 of these were treated with therapeutic infusions of 131I-B1 (12·765-29·045 GBq) followed by autologous hemopoietic stem cell reinfusion. 18 of the 21 treated patients had objective responses, including 16 complete remissions. One patient died of progressive lymphoma and one died of sepsis. Analysis of our phase I and II trials with 131I-labelled B1 reveal a progression-free survival of 62% and an overall survival of 93% with a median follow-up of 2 years. 131I-anti-CD20 (B1) antibody therapy produces complete responses of long duration in most patients with relapsed B-cell lymphomas when given at maximally tolerated doses with autologous stem cell rescue.
Autologous (Self) Transplants
An autologous transplant (or rescue) is a type of transplant that uses the person’s own stem cells. These cells are collected in advance and returned at a later stage. They are used to replace stem cells that have been damaged by high doses of chemotherapy, used to treat the person’s underlying disease.
In most cases, stem cells are collected directly from the bloodstream. While stem cells normally live in your marrow, a combination of chemotherapy and a growth factor (a drug that stimulates stem cells) called Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF) is used to expand the number of stem cells in the marrow and cause them to spill out into the circulating blood. From here they can be collected from a vein by passing the blood through a special machine called a cell separator, in a process similar to dialysis.
Most of the side effects of an autologous transplant are caused by the conditioning therapy used. Although they can be very unpleasant at times it is important to remember that most of them are temporary and reversible.
Procedure of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the transplantation of multipotent hematopoietic stem cells, usually derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood. It may be autologous (the patient’s own stem cells are used) or allogeneic (the stem cells come from a donor).
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
Author: Ajay Perumbeti, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) involves the intravenous (IV) infusion of autologous or allogeneic stem cells to reestablish hematopoietic function in patients whose bone marrow or immune system is damaged or defective.
The image below illustrates an algorithm for typically preferred hematopoietic stem cell transplantation cell source for treatment of malignancy.
An algorithm for typically preferred hematopoietic stem cell transplantation cell source for treatment of malignancy: If a matched sibling donor is not available, then a MUD is selected; if a MUD is not available, then choices include a mismatched unrelated donor, umbilical cord donor(s), and a haploidentical donor.
2.5.4 Blood transfusions – risks and complications of a blood transfusion
- Allogeneic transfusion reaction (acute or delayed hemolytic reaction)
- Allergic reaction
- Viruses Infectious Diseases
The risk of catching a virus from a blood transfusion is very low.
HIV. Your risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion is lower than your risk of getting killed by lightning. Only about 1 in 2 million donations might carry HIV and transmit HIV if given to a patient.
Hepatitis B and C. The risk of having a donation that carries hepatitis B is about 1 in 205,000. The risk for hepatitis C is 1 in 2 million. If you receive blood during a transfusion that contains hepatitis, you’ll likely develop the virus.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). This disease is the human version of Mad Cow Disease. It’s a very rare, yet fatal brain disorder. There is a possible risk of getting vCJD from a blood transfusion, although the risk is very low. Because of this, people who may have been exposed to vCJD aren’t eligible blood donors.
- Iron Overload
- Lung Injury
- Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a condition in which white blood cells in the new blood attack your tissues.
Erythropoietin, (/ɨˌrɪθrɵˈpɔɪ.ɨtɨn/, UK /ɛˌrɪθroʊ.poʊˈiːtɪn/) also known as EPO, is a glycoprotein hormone that controls erythropoiesis, or red blood cell production. It is a cytokine (protein signaling molecule) for erythrocyte (red blood cell) precursors in the bone marrow. Human EPO has a molecular weight of 34 kDa.
Also called hematopoietin or hemopoietin, it is produced by interstitial fibroblasts in the kidney in close association with peritubular capillary and proximal convoluted tubule. It is also produced in perisinusoidal cells in the liver. While liver production predominates in the fetal and perinatal period, renal production is predominant during adulthood. In addition to erythropoiesis, erythropoietin also has other known biological functions. For example, it plays an important role in the brain’s response to neuronal injury. EPO is also involved in the wound healing process.
Exogenous erythropoietin is produced by recombinant DNA technology in cell culture. Several different pharmaceutical agents are available with a variety ofglycosylation patterns, and are collectively called erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA). The specific details for labelled use vary between the package inserts, but ESAs have been used in the treatment of anemia in chronic kidney disease, anemia in myelodysplasia, and in anemia from cancer chemotherapy. Boxed warnings include a risk of death, myocardial infarction, stroke, venous thromboembolism, and tumor recurrence.
2.5.6 G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor)
Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF or GCSF), also known as colony-stimulating factor 3 (CSF 3), is a glycoprotein that stimulates the bone marrow to produce granulocytes and stem cells and release them into the bloodstream.
There are different types, including
- Lenograstim (Granocyte)
- Filgrastim (Neupogen, Zarzio, Nivestim, Ratiograstim)
- Long acting (pegylated) filgrastim (pegfilgrastim, Neulasta) and lipegfilgrastim (Longquex)
Pegylated G-CSF stays in the body for longer so you have treatment less often than with the other types of G-CSF.
2.5.7 Plasma Exchange (plasmapheresis)
Plasmapheresis is a term used to refer to a broad range of procedures in which extracorporeal separation of blood components results in a filtered plasma product.[1, 2] The filtering of plasma from whole blood can be accomplished via centrifugation or semipermeable membranes. Centrifugation takes advantage of the different specific gravities inherent to various blood products such as red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma. Membrane plasma separation uses differences in particle size to filter plasma from the cellular components of blood.
Traditionally, in the United States, most plasmapheresis takes place using automated centrifuge-based technology. In certain instances, in particular in patients already undergoing hemodialysis, plasmapheresis can be carried out using semipermeable membranes to filter plasma.
In therapeutic plasma exchange, using an automated centrifuge, filtered plasma is discarded and red blood cells along with replacement colloid such as donor plasma or albumin is returned to the patient. In membrane plasma filtration, secondary membrane plasma fractionation can selectively remove undesired macromolecules, which then allows for return of the processed plasma to the patient instead of donor plasma or albumin. Examples of secondary membrane plasma fractionation include cascade filtration, thermofiltration, cryofiltration, and low-density lipoprotein pheresis.
The Apheresis Applications Committee of the American Society for Apheresis periodically evaluates potential indications for apheresis and categorizes them from I to IV based on the available medical literature. The following are some of the indications, and their categorization, from the society’s 2010 guidelines.
- The only Category I indication for hemopoietic malignancy is Hyperviscosity in monoclonal gammopathies
2.5.8 Platelet Transfusions
Indications for platelet transfusion in children with acute leukemia
Scott Murphy, Samuel Litwin, Leonard M. Herring, Penelope Koch, et al.
Am J Hematol Jun 1982; 12(4): 347–356
In an attempt to determine the indications for platelet transfusion in thrombocytopenic patients, we randomized 56 children with acute leukemia to one of two regimens of platelet transfusion. The prophylactic group received platelets when the platelet count fell below 20,000 per mm3 irrespective of clinical events. The therapeutic group was transfused only when significant bleeding occurred and not for thrombocytopenia alone. The time to first bleeding episode was significantly longer and the number of bleeding episodes were significantly reduced in the prophylactic group. The survival curves of the two groups could not be distinguished from each other. Prior to the last month of life, the total number of days on which bleeding was present was significantly reduced by prophylactic therapy. However, in the terminal phase (last month of life), the duration of bleeding episodes was significantly longer in the prophylactic group. This may have been due to a higher incidence of immunologic refractoriness to platelet transfusion. Because of this terminal bleeding, comparison of the two groups for total number of days on which bleeding was present did not show a significant difference over the entire study period.
Clinical and Laboratory Aspects of Platelet Transfusion Therapy
Yuan S, Goldfinger D
INTRODUCTION — Hemostasis depends on an adequate number of functional platelets, together with an intact coagulation (clotting factor) system. This topic covers the logistics of platelet use and the indications for platelet transfusion in adults. The approach to the bleeding patient, refractoriness to platelet transfusion, and platelet transfusion in neonates are discussed elsewhere.
Pooled Platelets – A single unit of platelets can be isolated from every unit of donated blood, by centrifuging the blood within the closed collection system to separate the platelets from the red blood cells (RBC). The number of platelets per unit varies according to the platelet count of the donor; a yield of 7 x 1010 platelets is typical . Since this number is inadequate to raise the platelet count in an adult recipient, four to six units are pooled to allow transfusion of 3 to 4 x 1011 platelets per transfusion . These are called whole blood-derived or random donor pooled platelets.
Advantages of pooled platelets include lower cost and ease of collection and processing (a separate donation procedure and pheresis equipment are not required). The major disadvantage is recipient exposure to multiple donors in a single transfusion and logistic issues related to bacterial testing.
Apheresis (single donor) Platelets – Platelets can also be collected from volunteer donors in the blood bank, in a one- to two-hour pheresis procedure. Platelets and some white blood cells are removed, and red blood cells and plasma are returned to the donor. A typical apheresis platelet unit provides the equivalent of six or more units of platelets from whole blood (ie, 3 to 6 x 1011 platelets) . In larger donors with high platelet counts, up to three units can be collected in one session. These are called apheresis or single donor platelets.
Advantages of single donor platelets are exposure of the recipient to a single donor rather than multiple donors, and the ability to match donor and recipient characteristics such as HLA type, cytomegalovirus (CMV) status, and blood type for certain recipients.
Both pooled and apheresis platelets contain some white blood cells (WBC) that were collected along with the platelets. These WBC can cause febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reactions (FNHTR), alloimmunization, and transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease (ta-GVHD) in some patients.
Platelet products also contain plasma, which can be implicated in adverse reactions including transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) and anaphylaxis. (See ‘Complications of platelet transfusion’ .)
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