"As many as 16,000 leukemia patients diagnosed each year require a bone marrow transplant, but have no matched relative or can't find a match in the national bone marrow registry," says Mary J. Laughlin, MD, lead author on the study and hematologist oncologist at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and University Hospitals of Cleveland Ireland Cancer Center. "Umbilical cords that are normally discarded after birth could provide real hope for these patients."
Dr. Laughlin led an international team of researchers in collaboration with the International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry and the New York Blood Center National Cord Blood Program. They conducted an analysis and comparison of treatment results in more than 500 adult leukemia patients undergoing transplant.
Researchers directly compared patients who had cord blood stem cell transplants with two groups: patients who had fully-matched unrelated bone marrow transplants and patients who had one antigen-mismatched unrelated bone marrow transplants. The study included patient's ages 16 to 60 years who underwent transplants in the United States during a six-year period ending in 2001.
Survival rates were highest (33 percent) for those bone marrow transplants with matched unrelated donors. Survival rates were the same (22 percent) for cord blood and one antigen-mismatched unrelated bone marrow transplant patients--results that clearly indicate the efficacy of cord blood stem cells when bone marrow donors are unavailable, according to Dr. Laughlin, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.