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Cord blood transplant for US boy aged two

18 February 2008
Appeared in BioNews 445

After two months of treatment for a rare form of cancer known as Neuroblastoma, two-year old Caden Ledbetter came home from hospital in Dallas, Texas, this week, cancer-free. Neuroblastoma is a fast-growing cancer, which affects the nervous system. Sporting a surgical mask and clutching a teddy bear, the toddler gingerly emerged from behind a curtain of streamers and balloons that had been erected by hospital staff to mark the end of his stay - at least for now. 'It's just the uncertainty of the future that gets a little bit scary', said his mother, Lexie. 'You've got to stay with today and say 'Yay, we're going home' and see what happens then'.

Caden's treatment, which began on 28 December last year at The Medical City Hospital, Dallas, was unusual. Doctors used chemotherapy to wipe out the cancerous cells and replaced them with Caden's own stem cells harvested from cord blood taken from his umbilical cord at birth. The new cells are currently re-populating his entire immune and blood system. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood (UCB) have been used since the first successful transplant in 1988 on Matthew Farrow, a five-year old boy who suffered from Fanconi's Anaemia. Medical experts carried out the procedure at a hospital in Paris using the stem cells harvested from the cord blood of his newborn sister, Alison.

With Caden's treatment, however, his own UCB stem cells have been used - a procedure carrying the risk that the cells may already contain the disease his parents and doctors wish to eradicate. In fact, the long-term benefits of reintroducing one's own stored cells into the body to treat cancer have split medical opinion. But Caden's physician, Dr Joel Weinthal, commented: 'it's the boy's best shot against a deadly disease that comes back about half the time'. His father, John, added: 'It's very scary, it's defeating, it can get to you, if you let it'.

In the meantime, the family home has been fitted with a new heating and air-conditioning system and dust-free air ducts to protect his fragile immune system, and ensure his best chance of survival. A welcoming committee made up of his five-year old twin brothers, Joshua and Zachary, and proud parents celebrated his homecoming. Although the family remain realistic about his long-term prospects of success, Lexi Ledbetter told the Morning News: 'Now we're almost back to the Caden we know'.

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6 April 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Some UK National Health Service (NHS) hospitals are banning the collection of umbilical cord blood at birth unless it goes into a public blood bank rather than being stored for future use by the individual. King's College hospital in London and Watford General hospital in Hertfordshire have...
15 September 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The UK's Antony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust this week launched a new initiative - the Antony Nolan Cord Blood Bank and a combined stem cell research centre at Nottingham Trent University. Mothers who deliver babies at the Kings College Hospital, London, are being recruited to donate the stem...
31 March 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The journal Stem Cells and Development has announced the results of an exciting new research project being carried out by a collaboration of researchers from the University of Florida, Yale University, New Haven, Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, Los Angeles, Saneron CCEL Therapeutics, Incorporated and The Saintama Medical...
14 January 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The potentially life-saving properties of cord blood stem cells, taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies, has been highlighted by a UK politician this week. Conservative MP David Burrowes presented a 10-minute rule bill to Parliament on 8 January 2008, which requires doctors to inform...
5 February 2007 - by Khadija Ibrahim 
Sir Richard Branson has launched a new company under his Virgin brand which will offer umbilical cord blood banking facilities to parents of newborn babies. Cord blood transfusions are already used for the treatment of blood related disorders but some believe that umbilical cord blood, which is...
20 October 2006 - by Dr Karen Devine 
Once again, umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cell collection and storage has been in the headlines of the popular press. UCB can be collected at birth and stored for the future use of the donor, its siblings or donated for public use. There are two main types of banking - public...
18 June 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has issued an updated version of its Scientific Opinion Paper on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking. The report finds that there is little evidence to recommend the practice whereby private companies collect and store umbilical cord blood for up to...
15 June 2006 - by Dr Karen Devine 
This week saw the long awaited report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which stated its latest position on the public and private banking of umbilical cord blood stem cells. Essentially, their stance remains unchanged from the one taken in their previous opinion paper published in 2001...
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