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Tag Archive: stem cell treatment for leukaemia

  1. 9 year old with high-risk leukaemia successfully treated with cord blood stem cells

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    Report from ABC News, 2015

    “Washington girl is celebrating being cancer-free after she was diagnosed with high-risk leukaemia at just 9 years old.

    When doctors failed to find a traditional bone marrow or stem cell donor for transplant, they turned to stem cells taken from donated umbilical cords to try and save her life.

    Jenna Gibson, now 12, kept catching colds and feeling sick when her mother took her to her pediatrician, who was immediately concerned.

    For over a month Jenna had to stay at the hospital with the family hoping that tests after her first treatment would show that the medication was working. But a month after she arrived, doctors told the family that Jenna had enough cancer cells remaining to make her high risk. She would need a bone marrow transplant to survive.

    Gibson said the family was terrified because Jenna was adopted and there was little chance a sibling or family member could help her with a transplant.

    “We knew her siblings would not be an option [which] is incredibly scary,” said Gibson. Gibson said they then learned match rates for minorities was also low, causing more complications for Jenna, who was born in Guatemala.

    After weeks of searching with no luck, the medical staff at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center decided to try using stem cells taken from donated umbilical cords. While not as frequent an option, using stem cells from cord blood has become more popular in recent years.

    Dr. Colleen Delany, director of the Cord Blood Transplant Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said it’s easier to treat children with cord blood because they are smaller and do not need as many stem cells and that it can be easier to find a donor because there aren’t as many markers that must be matched for a successful transplant.

    “Cord blood is so naïve and uneducated it’s more tolerant to be in a new environment,” said Delany. “We can find a donor for nearly everyone to find a transplant.”

    Delany and her team were able to find a cord blood match for Jenna that was a 6/6 match, when the search failed to find a traditional bone marrow donor.

    “What blows me away is that cord blood went into the garbage…every day it is happening thousands and thousands of times, there is a woman out there somewhere who said donate it,” said Gibson. “It saved our daughter’s life.”

    Jenna had to undergo radiation and three total rounds of chemotherapy before undergoing the transplant. Her immune system was purposely weakened so the new stem cells can restart her immune system from scratch.

    Delany said in earlier cases of cord blood transfusions patients, especially adults, took much longer to regrow their immune system. As a result, patients could have fatal complications even after their transplant as their immune system is weakened.

    However in recent years Delany’s team have been able to give people transplants from two cord donors at the same time which has helped lower the amount of time it takes to regrow an protective immunity. She said at Fred Hutchinson the statistical outcomes for both traditional bone marrow transplants and cord blood transplants have been the same.

    A second benefit of cord blood is that recipients tend to have less graft vs. host issues, where the body rejects the newly injected cells.

    “[Cord blood has] been ultimately protected. It’s been inside the protection of the mother,” said Delany. “The immune system that comes with those bags of cells it hasn’t had to fight anything.”

    Jenna had her transplant about three months after being diagnosed. While she did have some issues graft vs. host, it was minor compared to other leukemia patients.

    “She was singing and dancing every single day after[the transplant] she did amazing,” said Gibson.

    Gibson said she was so thankful that the cord blood was an option. Unlike a living donor, the medical team could just plan a day for transplant without having to coordinate for a donor. Additionally they did not have to continuously search for a bone marrow donor, meaning they didn’t have to keep treating Jenna to keep the cancer at bay.”

    Read the full article here.

  2. Leukaemia and cord blood transplantation

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    Keegan’s story

    Keegan Doheney was just 2 years old when he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Fortunately, Keegan’s doctors were able to get the leukaemia into remission, but his parents knew that there was always a chance of a relapse.

    Keegan’s mum, Wendy, found out about cord blood banking when she was pregnant with her second child. and decided to book the service, knowing the peace of mind it would give. This proved to be an incredibly astute decision.

    Aged 5, Keegan relapsed and needed a stem cell transplant to rebuild his immune and blood system following chemotherapy. The cord blood saved from Keldan’s birth proved to be a perfect match for Keegan. The treatment was successful and Keegan has been healthy ever since. The brothers have forged a strong bond and Keegan has gone on to excel at school, leading a healthy and active life. “Basically,” says Keegan, “my little brother saved my life.”

    “If this story touches one other family and helps them, then they’re both heroes. Cord blood saved our lives: saved my son’s life, and showed me what life is all about.” (Wendy Doheney)

    Leukaemia – a cancer of the blood

    There are around 9,500 new diagnoses of leukaemia in the UK every year. Leukaemia usually starts in the bone marrow, where new blood cells are made and lead to the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells, the part of the immune system that normally defends the body against infection.

    In healthy people, blood stem cells (haematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs) in the bone marrow divide to produce more stem cells or immature cells that become mature blood cells over time. Blood stem cells can become myeloid stem cells and go on to become red blood cells, platelets or white of blood cells. Or, they become lymphoid stem cells and eventually one of three types of specialist white blood cells (B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes or killer cells).

    The different types of leukaemia are defined by the type of white blood cell affected (myeloid or lymphatic) and the way the disease progresses. The main types of leukaemia are:

    • Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
    • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
    • Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
    • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
    • Hairy cell leukaemia (HCL)

    The treatment needed depends on the type of leukaemia. Stem cell transplants have been used to successfully treat the most common forms of leukaemia: AML, ALL, CML and CLL.

    Stem cell transplants for leukaemia

    Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to kill the cancer cells in the body of leukaemia patients. Unfortunately, chemotherapy and radiotherapy also kill the stem cells in bone marrow.

    Blood, or haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), are the precursors of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Following chemotherapy or radiotherapy HSCs from the patient or a donor can be replaced by a drip into a vein.

    A stem cell transplant is similar to a bone marrow transplant, but blood counts recover more quickly, so the patient is at risk of infection for a shorter time.

    Umbilical cord blood transplant (CBT)

    The umbilical cord and placenta are very rich in stem cells that can be used to treat leukaemia. Because cord blood stem cells are so young, they are more energetic, powerful and healthy than adult stem cells. Cord blood transplants are most often used for children because of the smaller amounts of stem cells collected. A double cord transplant is one solution. 3 There are also many promising studies into the expansion of cord blood HSCs for therapeutic use.

    Graft versus host disease (GvHD)

    Blood diseases can be treated with the patient’s own stem cells (autologous transplantation), or with the stem cells of a matched donor (allogeneic transplantation). Graft versus host disease is a complication that can occur in allogeneic transplantation when the white blood cells in the donated stem cells attack the cells of the recipient.

    Recent studies show that cord blood transplantation results in fewer cases of GvHD than bone marrow transplantation.

    At the University of Colorado Cancer Center, 51 leukaemia patients receiving a cord blood transplant (CBT) were compared with 57 patients receiving bone marrow transplants from matched, unrelated donors (MUD). 3 years after the transplant, overall rates of chronic GVHD were 44% following MUD and 8% following CBT. Patients receiving CBT were also less likely to need immunosuppression and ‘less likely to experience late infections and hospitalisations.’

    There is clear evidence that cord blood outperforms cells from matched, unrelated donors (Dr Jonathan Gutman, Clinical Director of Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation at University of Colorado Hospital)


    How to store your baby’s umbilical cord blood and tissue

    Organising the collection, processing and storage of your baby’s umbilical cord blood and tissue is quick and easy. Click here to start the process, or here to find out more about our personalised service.



    The information in this article is for information only and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical expert. If you have any health concerns you should discuss them with your doctor.