Stem Cell Treatment for Leukemia Improved
Transplant Technique Speeds Immune System Recovery
Larger, Longer Cord Blood Study Planned continued...
If that trial is successful, Delaney says the approach may prove useful not
just for the treatment of blood-related cancers, but for the treatment of other
conditions where white blood cell counts are low.
Stem cell transplant expert James Gajewski, MD, of Oregon Health Sciences
University, tells WebMD that the new research addresses one of two major issues
surrounding umbilical cord blood transplants.
“Every other attempt to expand (cord blood) stem cells has basically
failed,” he says. “This is really the first significant proof that these cells
can be expanded, and this group should be commended for doing brilliant
But he says it remains to be seen if cord-blood derived stem cells can
adequately mature and become useful in the immune systems of adult
"This study wasn’t designed to address this issue, but a longer, larger
study should,” he says.
Even if larger studies are positive, it is still not clear if stem umbilical
cord blood transplants will ever be commercially viable, he says.
The banks that store umbilical cords are funded by the government. If
government funding goes away, Gajewski says cord blood banks probably will too
unless cord blood transplants prove useful for much more than the treatment of
“For the cord blood banks, the great hope for the future is that there will
be many other uses for this treatment, such as repairing damaged hearts or
livers,” he says. “But that is a long way away.”