Baby sister helps cure boy of leukemia

June 13, 2011

It usually starts in the white blood cells. White blood cells are potent infection fighters. They normally grow and divide in an orderly way as the body needs them. However, in patients with leukemia, the bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal white blood cells that do not function properly.

Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms are more common in children while other forms occur mostly in adults. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

ALL: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) usually progresses rapidly without treatment. It is the most common type of cancer in children ages 1 to 7 years old. ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children from infancy up to age 19. ALL affects the blood cells and immune system. (SOURCE: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

TREATMENT: Treatment for leukemia depends on many factors. Doctors may recommend a treatment plan based on the patient's age, overall health, type of leukemia, and stage of the cancer. Common treatment strategies include chemotherapy, biological therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplant. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

PLACENTA STEM CELLS: Now, doctors are looking at placenta-derived stem cells as an experimental option for patients with leukemia. In one case, doctors at LSU successfully transplanted stem cells from a baby's afterbirth to treat a child with ALL. They used human placenta-derived stem cells and umbilical cord blood to treat the patient.

The patient, Quentin Murray, who was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with ALL, received the cells from his baby sister who was a perfect match.

The likelihood of a sibling matching the patient is between 25 percent and 35 percent. The placenta-derived stem cells have a powerful, anti-leukemic effect. Now, the patient is cancer-free.

"We followed him closely in the first 100 days after the transplant, and after that, on a monthly and three-month basis. When they are two years out after the transplant, basically, we say they're cured of their leukemia, and he is," Lolie Yu, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the LSU Health Sciences Center, told Ivanhoe. ( Source: Interview with Dr. Yu)


Leslie Capo, Media Relations
LSU Health Sciences Center
(504) 568-4806

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