Page URL:

Child cancer patients' stem cells lost in freezer failure

30 September 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1017

A children's hospital in the USA has reported the malfunction of a freezer used to store the stem cells of cancer patients.  

The Children's Hospital Los Angeles issued a statement and sent letters to 56 families informing them that their child's blood stem cells were lost due to a freezer malfunction caused by a 'failure of freezer temperature sensors' and 'insufficient' safeguards. 

'We apologise for any distress or confusion that this has caused our patients and their families,' the hospital statement said. It also stressed that the incident would not jeopardise any child's health.

The blood stem cells were collected from the patients before undergoing cancer treatment and stored in the event they might prove useful in the future.

'These blood stem cells, all of which were collected from patients, were in long-term storage. We routinely collect cells early in a child's course of oncology therapy for possible future use. When excess cells are not needed, they remain in storage in the unlikely event that they could become helpful in the future,' the hospital said.

The hospital offered to assist families if they want to harvest stem cells again; however, Sean Anderson Corona, one the children affected by the incidence, described the process as 'painful' and his mother Elizabeth Anderson expressed concern. 

'Once you're through that whole process of doing all the treatment, you've damaged your body,' Anderson told KABC. 'That's how damaging chemo is or the radiation alone. And so it's the same with the stem cells. He doesn't have that as an option to just collect more.' 

Dr James Stein, the hospital's chief medical officer, offered reassurance by saying: 'Were there to be a recurrence of disease that required stem cells, the patients can have their stem cells collected again.'

The faulty freezer has since been replaced and sensor-monitoring and alert system have been upgraded. The hospital also apologised for addressing the letters directly to the patients instead of the parents and said it would support families with any questions and follow-up care.

'Obviously, this is a huge deal for us,' said Dr Stein. 'We're reaching out directly to every single family in person to make sure that all their questions are answered.'

27 October 2019 - by Jakki Magowan 
The Teenage Cancer Trust has recommended that the negative effect of cancer treatments on fertility needs to be better communicated to patients...
20 May 2019 - by Dr Loredana Guglielmi 
The number of new parents paying to bank their baby's umbilical cord blood for future use in stem cell therapies or transplantation in case of illness has increased by 59 percent in the space of four years in the UK...
11 March 2019 - by Bernie Owusu-Yaw 
Two HIV patients have been found to have undetectable levels of the virus after receiving stem-cell transplants as part of treatment for cancer. There has only been one other case of this kind, reported ten years ago in Berlin...
28 January 2019 - by Georgia Everett 
Eight new lawsuits have been filed this week following the loss of 4000 eggs and embryos when a storage tank in a fertility clinic malfunctioned...
6 August 2018 - by Jen Willows 
An Ohio couple are continuing their legal fight to have their lost embryos declared to have the same legal status as people...
19 March 2018 - by Jen Willows 
A second US fertility clinic has reported a malfunction of a tank used to store frozen eggs and embryos...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.