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Placenta blood shows promise in stem-cell cancer treatment

February 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
One person in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer every four minutes. Chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant help fight off the disease, but thousands more diagnosed each year cannot find a matching donor. Now a solution using stem cells may be coming from a surprising place.

From making the bed to making music, Jessie Quinn has a shadow ready to learn just about anything her mom can teach her. It was little Luna who gave her mom the motivation to fight when Jessie was diagnosed with leukemia.

"That was the first thing that went through my head, actually. I wanted to be able to see Luna grow up," said Jessie.

Doctors could not find a bone marrow match for Jessie. That's when she became patient number one in a clinical trial using cord-blood stem cells from the placentas of newborn babies.

"Now we know that cord blood, which is generally thrown away as medical waste, also contains these blood-forming cells," said cancer researcher Dr. Colleen Delaney.

The stem cells taken from the cord blood are transplanted into the patient. Those stem cells replace the diseased blood and immune system and wage war against the cancer.

"Not only do their white blood cells come faster, but they also don't get the same side effects from the chemotherapy," said Delaney.

Most importantly, cord-blood stem cells do not have to be a perfect match for the patient.

"We have a bank of these cells that can be used for any patient," said Delaney.

Jessie is now in remission. The stem cell transplant has given her more time to teach Luna more about life.

"I was just glad there was another option," said Jessie.

Dr. Delaney is beginning a new multi-center clinical trial using cord-blood stem cells for cancer patients.


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