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Medical Oncology Resources

Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant

Some cancers require high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat them effectively. However, high doses of chemotherapy often severely lower white blood cell count or decrease function of the immune system. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant is a procedure in which high dose therapy is given, followed by an intravenous infusion of healthy bone marrow or stem cells. These cells travel to the bone marrow and begin to produce new bone marrow cells in about 2-3 weeks. This is called engraftment.

Bone marrow or stem cells are either autologous (your own cells) or allogeneic (donated from someone else).

Why are bone marrow or stem cell transplants used in cancer patients?

Higher than normal doses of chemotherapy can only be given if a bone marrow or stem cell transplant is available to help the bone marrow recover.

Why are there side effects when someone receives a bone marrow or stem cell transplant?

  • Side effects in allogeneic transplants depend on how closely the donated bone marrow or stem cells match the patient. Even with a "perfect" match, some side effects can occur.
  • Side effects from the high dose therapy are the same as with general chemotherapy, but they may be more intense.

What are the most common side effects of bone marrow or stem cell transplant?

  • Bleeding
  • Failure for bone marrow to regrow (engraft)
  • Graft-verses-host disease ("GVHD") in allogeneic (marrow/stem cells from another person) transplants
  • Infections

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Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. The drugs often are called "anticancer" drugs.

Visit Karmanos Cancer Institute website to learn more about chemotherapy and chemotherapy tips to help during treatment.

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Clinical Trials

Research studies evaluate promising new therapies and answer scientific questions. The goal of such trials is to find treatments that are more effective in controlling cancer with fewer side effects. Karmanos Cancer Institute offers one of the largest clinical trials program in the nation, giving patients access to more than 100 promising new treatments often available only at Karmanos. Click here for a list of Karmanos Clinical Trials.

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Cord Blood Program

Karmanos collects, processes and stores donated umbilical cord blood that becomes a readily available source of hematopoietic stem cells for transplant in children and adults with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease or other life-threatening conditions.

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Cryoablation, also referred to as cryotherapy, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures to destroy diseased tissue. In certain clinical situations, it can be preferred over other techniques and has a faster recovery time.

What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, cryoablation or targeted cryoablation therapy, refers to the application of extreme cold to destroy diseased tissue, including cancer cells. Cryotherapy can be used to destroy skin tumors, precancerous skin moles, nodules, skin tags or unsightly freckles. 

With the improvement of imaging techniques and the development of devices to better control extreme temperatures, Karmanos Cancer Institute physicians use cryotherapy as a treatment for patients with the following conditions:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Liver tumors (usually spread from other organs)
  • Cervical cancer
  • Fibroadenoma
  • Benign & malignant  breast tumors (cryotherapy to treat malignant breast tumors is still considered experimental)

How does it work?

For external masses, liquid nitrogen is applied directly with a cotton swab or spray device. For internal tumors, cryotherapy is carried out by using a cryoprobe, a thin wand-like device with a handle or trigger or a series of small needles, attached via tubing to a source of nitrogen or argon, which super-cools the probe tip. 

The cryoprobe is placed in the proper position using imaging guidance, and as internal tissue is being frozen, the physician avoids damaging healthy tissue by viewing the movement of the probe on ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI) images transmitted to a monitor similar to a television screen. 

Once the cells are destroyed, components of the immune system clear out the dead tissue. Patients undergoing cryosurgery usually experience minor-to-moderate localized pain and redness, which can be alleviated by aspirin or ibuprofen and application of topical steroid cream. Blisters may form, but these usually scab over and peel away. 

What are the benefits vs. risks?

Cryosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure, and can be preferred to more traditional kinds of surgery because of its minimal pain, scarring, and cost; however, as with any medical treatment, there are risks involved, primarily that of damage to nearby healthy tissue and the potential for not freezing the entire tumor. Damage to nerve tissue is of particular concern.

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Hormonal Therapy

Hormonal therapy is the use of hormones (substances in our body produced by an organ or gland) to trigger an increase in function or activity of another body part, or increase release of another hormone. Hormones are used in certain cancers that respond to stimulation of specific hormones. They may be used in cancers of the breast, cervix, kidney, skin (malignant melanoma), ovary, and prostate.

Why is hormonal therapy used in cancer patients?

  • Some cancers are dependent upon the presence of specific hormones/substances in our body to survive and grow
  • Use of a specific hormone blocks the production or effects of the hormones that are associated with a particular cancer

Why are there side effects when someone receives hormonal therapy?

Hormones stimulate or cause overproduction of certain substances in the body. Side effects can occur as a result.

What are the most common side effects of hormonal therapy?

  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Hot flashes
  • Impotence
  • Increased blood sugar/diabetes
  • Swelling from fluid retention
  • Weight gain

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Infusion Therapy

The day of appointment, patients are asked to bring:

  • Their insurance card
  • Names and addresses of all their physicians
  • A list of all medications they are currently taking, making sure to include over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs and any dietary supplements

What to expect:

  • There is no set time length of treatments. The length of treatments depends on the type of medications the patient has been prescribed and how quickly treatments are delivered.
  • Patients will learn about their course of treatment from their doctor before therapy begins. Patients who need additional information on specific drugs that will be administered may ask their medical team or visit the National Cancer Institute's Drug Dictionary Web site.

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