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Complications From Transplants Using Donor Stem Cells continued...

A relapse of cancer is possible even years after your transplant. Most often, relapses happen because chemotherapy and radiation failed to kill all the cancer cells. Relapses can also occur if there were still cancer cells left in the blood collected before you had chemotherapy. With some aggressive cancers, the relapse rate after a transplant with your own cells may be as high as 50%.

Fortunately, "graft vs. tumor" effect may help prevent relapse. This good benefit occurs when the donor's mature immune cells recognize and attack any cancer cells found in your body after the transplant. To boost this effect, your doctor may want to give you an infusion of donor immune cells along with the donor stem cells. If a relapse does occur, it can be treated with a different chemotherapy regimen, a second transplant (if your own stem cells were used the first time, you may use a donor's cells), or both.