Tag Archive: blood cancer

  1. 28th May is World Blood Cancer Day – cord blood can provide a cure

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    We look at how umbilical cord blood can help treat people with certain life-threatening diseases, including some types of cancers.

    Why do we have a World Blood Cancer day?

    Every 27 seconds, someone somewhere in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer. Blood
    cancer refers to defects in the blood-forming system, which cause cancer cells to enter the
    bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably, crowding out the healthy cells. This means the blood
    can no longer perform its tasks, such as oxygen transportation and defence against germs.

    Depending on the level of maturity of the blood cells in which these changes take place, doctors
    distinguish between three main groups of blood cancer, each of which has many sub-types:
    leukemia, multiple myeloma and malignant lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). Blood
    cancer therefore refers to various diseases of the blood-forming system.

    Did you know that umbilical cord blood can be used to treat more than 80 diseases, including blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma?

    Stem cell transplants with cord blood have been used to cure both children and adults with leukemia for longer than people think.

    The first cord blood stem cell transplant, an international effort between physicians in the U.S. and Europe, was performed in France in 1988. Stem cells collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood were used to save the life of her brother, a 5-year-old with Fanconi Anemia. 

    Since then, there have been more than 40,000 cord blood transplants performed worldwide. 

    What makes cord blood so special?

    The umbilical cord contains something very precious: hematopoietic stem cells.

    Hematopoietic stem cells have the ability of forming into mature blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, providing what your body needs to stay healthy. 

    Cord blood stem cells are amazing.

    They have a natural ability to:

    Turn into different types of cells such as blood, tissue, nerve, and bone cells

    Make copies of themselves

    Replace damaged cells with healthy ones.

    What Is Cord Blood Used For Today?

    Cord blood has been used in transplant medicine for thirty years and can be used in the treatment of over 80 diseases including:


    Acute lymphoblastic leukemia | Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma | Neuroblastoma 

    Blood Disorders

    Sickle-cell anemia | Cooley’s anemia | β-thalassemia intermedia 

    Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes

    Fanconi anemia | Diamond-Blackfan anemia | Juvenile dermatomyositis  

    Metabolic Disorders

    Hurler syndrome | Tay-Sachs Disease | Krabbe disease 

    Immune Disorders

    Severe combined immunodeficiency | DiGeorge syndrome | Reticular dysplasia

    What is a cord blood transplant?

    You need healthy bone marrow and blood cells to live. If you have a condition that affects your bone marrow or blood, then a stem cell transplant could be the best treatment option. For some people, a transplant offers hope of a potential cure.

    A bone marrow or stem cell transplant means that doctors or nurses will put new, healthy stem cells into your bloodstream. These cells make their way to your bone marrow where they begin to grow and make healthy new blood cells.

    Who can potentially use my newborn’s cord blood?

    A cord blood transplant could be a suitable treatment option for:

    • a condition that means that you’re not able to make your own healthy blood cells, for example aplastic anaemia or a genetic condition affecting your blood, bone marrow or immune system
    • a condition that means that you’re not able to make your own healthy blood cells, for example aplastic anaemia or a genetic condition affecting your blood, bone marrow or immune system
    • blood cancer that is unlikely to be cured by chemotherapy alone
    • anyone needing a stem cell transplant who does not have another suitable stem cell donor.

    When a patient is treated with their own cells, it is defined as an autologous transplant; if they receive cells from a donor the transplant is allogenic. 

    In the UK, parents can choose to store their baby’s cord blood privately, or donate to a public bank. 

    Private banking is the only way to guarantee that matching stem cells are available should your child or matched relative ever need a haematopoietic stem cell transplant. 

    It is particularly important to store privately if a member of your family has a condition such as sickle cell disease, which can be cured with matching HSCs. Some families also choose to store cord blood to treat an older relative who has received a blood or immune disease diagnosis.

    For other conditions however, there may be a genetic predisposition to that disease, and in these cases a patient may not be able to use his or her own stem cells. In this situation a matched sibling’s stem cells would be the first choice before looking for alternative donors.

    For most families, cord blood and tissue storage is an insurance policy they hope never to use. The steady rise in life-enhancing as well as life-saving stem cell therapies, however, suggests we may all use regenerative treatments one day.

    Download our brochure to find out more r call our team on 01752 753723.


    Why parents should save their baby’s cord blood — and give it away, Harvard Health

    Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood

    Cord blood donation, NHS Cord Blood Bank

    Cord blood banking – what you need to know, FDA

    What is a cord blood transplant? Anthony Nolan

    How umbilical cord blood can save someone’s life, Cancer

    Cord blood stem cell transplantation, The Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society

  2. How is umbilical cord blood used to treat blood cancers?

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    Did you know umbilical cord blood is being used to treat a number of cancers of the blood? And did you know you can collect and store the cord blood from your newborn to use in potentially life-saving treatments as they get older? This article explores how umbilical cord blood is used to treat blood cancers, a fascinating story that’s only just beginning and has a lot more to give to parents across the world.  

    Riley Maclennan’s story

    Let’s kick off with something heart-warming. This is Riley Maclennan’s story. In 2021 Riley, aged seven was saved from cancer. It was all thanks to a stem cell transplant taken from a new baby’s umbilical cord. The cord blood collection process is completely safe, easy and fast, and more parents every year are investing in it. 

    Riley’s myelodysplastic syndrome was a type of blood cancer, very rare in children. The family were told his best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant, using stem cells from umbilical cord blood. 

    Riley was given the transplant the second time cancer arrived, having endured chemotherapy in isolation miles from home in Glasgow. Now he’s in remission, his parents are thrilled, and he launched World Cancer Day in Scotland on 4th February. 

    No wonder heart-warming stories like Riley’s inspire us to keep talking about the incredible power of stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood. 

    Chris Lihosit’s life-saving treatment

    In early August 2015, Chris Lihosit fell ill. He was exhausted, dehydrated, and feverish. He had acute myeloid leukaemia, a fast-progressing and often deadly cancer. The biopsy revealed 80% of his bone marrow cells were cancerous. Worse still, chemotherapy wouldn’t be as effective as usual on this kind of cancer. 

    Genetic tests made it clear Chris was also in an unusually high-risk category, with just one copy of chromosome 21 leaving him facing a dismal outcome. All this meant the cancer was likely to return without a bone marrow transplant. Sadly that wasn’t possible either, leaving an umbilical cord blood transplant his only option. 

    Chris’s own bone marrow cells had been destroyed by radiation and chemo. The transplant of just four tablespoons of cord blood extract donated by twin baby girls saved his life. 97 days later Chris was officially declared free from cancer that almost killed him. 

    About umbilical cord blood and leukaemia

    Cord blood is being used to treat one of the most dreaded cancers of all, leukaemia. So what is leukaemia, and how can umbilical cord stem cells be used to treat leukaemia? 

    Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood cells. It forces the body to make abnormal blood cells, which behave differently from healthy cells. The type of leukaemia depends on the type of cell affected and whether it’s an acute, fast-growing version or a chronic, slower-growth variant of the disease. In its worst form, it is potentially lethal and the chronic form can also kill. 

    Cord blood transplants are being used to treat leukaemia, and have been used since the early 1990s in both children and adults. So far most of the world’s 35,000 cord blood transplants have been used to treat leukaemia patients and people with other blood disorders. 

    One piece of 2016 research by the New England Journal of Medicine compared cord blood transplants to bone marrow transplants for leukaemia. While both groups had roughly the same survival rate, cord blood patients lived for longer and were less at risk of relapse. 

    Importantly, children with leukaemia or other blood disorders need a transplant from a donor, not their own cord blood.  This is because some children and teens get leukaemia because of a genetic defect, which means it’s no good transplanting the defect back into their body via their own cord blood. 

    Stem cell treatment and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

    A stem cell transplant might be offered as part of the treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, also called ALL. The transplant means you can have high doses of chemotherapy and other treatments more safely than without the treatment. A transplant like this is most likely when your cancer has features that suggest it might return after being treated, or it has come back and you have already relapsed. 

    Experts believe cord blood stem cells can work better than the alternatives 

    The 2016 research we mentioned earlier revealed umbilical cord blood as having the potential to work better against leukaemia than bone marrow and stem cells from other sources. In the words of an assistant member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, “In centres with experience, it can yield great outcomes.”  

    This is the case, especially for those patients who have ‘minimal residual disease’, in other words, small numbers of cancer cells remit becomes ‘significantly’ lower after a cord blood stem cell transplant. 

    Cord blood cancer treatment advances in Canada

    Over in Canada, Dr. Marjorie Brand is using umbilical cord blood to study blood diseases and cancers. She rates cord blood highly and is especially interested in the formation of red blood cells from the original hematopoietic stem cells they begin life as. 

    The discovery that two proteins compete inside each cell and the ‘winner’ turns into a blood cell or platelet was a “breakthrough in the field of stem cell biology”.  Knowing how the process works should ultimately improve leukaemia detection levels and suggest new potential treatments, including innovative drugs for leukaemia patients.

    What’s the future of umbilical cord blood therapies? 

    We scanned the New Scientist website for more news about cord blood treatments. We found articles talking about the way blood from human babies makes the brains of elderly mice young again, how it might one day be able to fix your brain after a stroke, and the way these cells appear to kill cancer faster than adult stem cells. They’re described as a potential ‘lifeline’ for stroke patients, and they’re popular because they are ethical, harvested from cord blood that would otherwise be discarded rather than from human embryos. 

    The future is looking bright in our world. Will you collect and store your newborn’s cord blood for a brighter healthcare future?

    Answering your questions about cord blood cancer treatment  

    What is a cord blood transplant? How can I store my baby’s cord blood? They’re increasingly common questions, and we’re delighted to provide answers. Want to find out more? Download our brochure or contact our expert team.


    stem cell preservation

    BSc (Hons) Microbiology

    Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

    Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.