Cord-blood shows promising results for treatment of leukemia in patients that have problems finding a matching bone marrow donor.
Adults and children stricken with leukemia can be treated with bone marrow or stem cell transplants, but finding a compatible donor can sometimes be difficult to achieve. But a new study, cited on usnews.com, is suggesting the the use of umbilical cord blood to treat the disease may work as well as current treatments, and possibly even better.
Cord blood, taken from the placenta and umbilical cords of newly-born babies, can be used to stimulate the growth of stem cells that create new blood cells, similar to the process after a bone marrow transplant, but with one exciting difference.
Cord-blood donors do not have to be a perfect match with the recipient, according to Dr. Filippo Milano, lead author on the study and an assistant member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
“Often, cord-blood transplant is thought to be only as the last resource for patients without donors, said Dr. Milano. “But cord blood does not have to be considered only an alternative donor source.”
Dr. Milano and the research team examined the records of 582 patients with leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome who weren’t able to find a perfect match for a transplant. The patients in the study either received a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from an incompatible donor, or received a cord-blood transplant.
“Our study showed that overall survival after cord-blood transplantation was comparable to the one observed after matched unrelated transplants,” said Dr. Milano. He also added that the recipients of the cord-blood transplants seemed to live longer than those with non-matching donors.
Milano cautioned the requirement of blood for a cord-blood transplant made the process quite a bit more expensive, but he felt the advent of new technology that may require less blood would soon began to lower the extra cost.
More research is needed to obtain a better understanding of the process, with questions such as why does some cord blood seem to be more efficient in destroying leftover cancer cells than others still troubling the researchers.
But the new findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are giving hope to those with issues in finding a bone marrow transplant, and the researchers believe there will be a good deal more to be learned.