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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'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
After receiving unusual stem cell transplant, Coppell toddler comes home from hospital
Dallas News |  12 February 2008
Boy home after rare cell treatment
United Press International |  12 February 2008
Coppell toddler home after breakthrough stem cells transplant
WFAA |  12 February 2008
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