Bone marrow transplantation is often the most optimal method for treating blood cancer, in particular leukemia, but it is very difficult to find a matching transplant. Only 30% of the family members may be compatible donors for the patient, so umbilical cord blood, as an alternative source of hematopoietic stem cells, is associated with great expectations.
Alexis Harris was diagnosed leukemia 2 years ago.
“Doctors told me that I will live from 18 to 24 months if I do not undergo treatment and bone marrow transplantation,” says Harris, a woman who has defeated leukemia.
No one in her family appeared to be a donor for her, and 2 donors who were found in the registry refused to donate. The difficulty of finding a compatible donor was that the woman belonged to the national minorities, that are characterized by rare antigens of the histocompatibility system.
Dr. Filippo Milano, director of the Cord Blood Transplant Program at the Cancer Research Center, told her about the possibility of using cord blood and an open clinical trial in this direction.
“The main benefit of the umbilical cord blood is the cells that originate from the newborn, and these cells are immunologically immature, that is, there is no need for 100% compatibility between the donor and the recipient,” says Dr. Milano.
Dr Milano said that umbilical cord blood will work in 95% of cases. After all, stem cells of umbilical cord blood are approved for use in patients with pathology of the hematopoietic system, who are indicated transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells.
This means that the umbilical cord blood can be used in the treatment of leukemia and lymphomas, as well as other blood diseases and immune systems, in particular sickle cell anemia. But for some adult patients, two doses of umbilical cord blood costs $ 80,000 if there are no stored stem cells in the family.
“Umbilical cord blood was proven to be a very good source of stem cells, and it’s important that it be used by many centers,” says Dr. Milano.
Dr. Milano also raises awareness among various ethnic groups about the possibility of participating in the register of hemopoietic stem cell donors, as well as the use of umbilical cord blood.
“The parents who donated the umbilical cord blood to the state bank have saved my life and I feel that I have to do something to help others,” says Harris, a former leukemia patient.
According to Dr. Milano, patients with leukemia, who are introduced cord blood, have fewer relapses. The doctor sees in the umbilical cord blood a huge potential for treatment of malignant diseases of blood and, possibly, regenerative medicine.