Umbilical cord blood is drawn from the umbilical cord and placenta of healthy newborns and is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells. Parents have the option to pass it from birth. The cells are stored frozen in public cord blood banks. Can cord blood cure cancer?
The main advantage of umbilical cord blood is that the newborn’s immune system is not yet fully developed. This means that the match required between umbilical cord blood stem cells and the recipient is less accurate.
However, despite the fact that the umbilical cord blood immune system is very plastic, it can still develop into a healthy immune system. In addition, umbilical cord blood cells are very good at fighting cancer. This ability is called the anti-leukemia effect. It can help prevent cancer recurrence after transplantation.
What happens to cord blood after it is donated?
First, the laboratory will test this to find out how human leukocyte antigen (HLA) fits in. The special combination of HLA proteins makes each person’s “type of tissue” blood unique. HLA-matched bone marrow rarely causes a possible graft side effect called graft versus host disease (GVHD). GVHD causes immune cells in transplanted tissue to recognize the recipient’s body as ‘foreign’ and attack it.
The cord blood bank then registers the HLA cord blood type in the donor register. The umbilical cord blood bank stores umbilical cord blood in a freezer until a match is found for the patient’s HLA type.
The doctors then search the donor register on behalf of their patients in need of a transplant. The goal is to find an HLA match for patients whose immediate family did not have an HLA match. In 2016, approximately 14,000 people – from very young children to the elderly – in the United States had to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant from outside of their close family.
Can cord blood cure leukemia?
Yes, umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants have been used to treat children and adults with leukemia since the early 1990s. To date, more than 35,000 umbilical cord blood transplants worldwide, and most of them concerned leukemia and other blood disorders. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in September 2016. It compared cord blood transplants with bone marrow transplants in patients with leukemia.
Can a child with cancer be treated with their own umbilical cord blood?
A child with cancer can sometimes be treated with autologous (own) umbilical cord blood, and dozens of documented cases come from family cord blood banks, but this is very rare. Child cancers represent less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year. The most common childhood cancer is leukemia, and we have another FAQ, “Does umbilical cord blood cure leukemia? “