In this procedure, very high doses of chemotherapy and/or whole body radiation are delivered to the patient in order to destroy cancer or leukaemia cells. it is a procedure that is usually performed in patients who have responded well to conventional therapy but in whom the doctor suspects that residual cancer cells remain. The very high doses of chemo/radiotherapy are 'beyond bone marrow tolerance' (i.e the patient will die of marrow failure unless the marrow is somehow rescued). The bone marrow transplant (also referred to as a 'graft') rescues the patient's bone marrow, which allows the body to regenerate the blood forming cells (whose decimation is the reason for death in bone marrow failure).
In leukaemia in particular, and those receiving their transplant from a matched donor, the graft itself may have some anti-leukaemia effect.
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