New stem cell treatment uses umbilical cord blood for bone marrow patients

By Tauren Dyson

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- A treatment that uses stem cells from umbilical cord blood could be safe for bone marrow transplant patients, a study says.

The findings of a new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that 94 percent of adult patients with blood cancers who received the umbilical cord blood treatment ended up with successful graft procedures within six weeks.


"Although umbilical cord blood transplantation has been used for 30 years, expansion technology represents an opportunity to improve the results for adult patients," said Mitchell Horwitz, professor of medicine at Duke and lead author of the study, in a news release.

In the past, doctors have successfully used umbilical cord blood transplantation on children, but the low stem cell count of the procedure wouldn't work with adults.

The treatment, performed by a team of university researchers, cultured and expanded umbilical cord blood stem cells outside the body then transplanted it into an adult blood cancer patients. The results show that the therapy restored a normal blood count in most patients.

Immune therapy company Gamida Cell produces this umbilical cord blood stem cell treatment known as NiCord, and after more successful trials plan to seek approval from the FDA.


"This study shows that a single unit of this product appears to be delivered safely to patients around the world," Horwitz said.

Next the product's manufacturer, Gamida Cell, plans to seek FDA approval of NiCord, Horwitz said.

"Compared to standard cord blood transplant, the reduction in recovery time translates into significant improvement in the safety profile of the transplant procedure," he added. "It's when their blood counts are low that patients are most vulnerable to infections, so by reducing that time to 11.5 days, we shorten that vulnerable period."

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