A study in the Nov. 25 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine confirms that stem cells in blood extracted from the umbilical cords of newborns can help leukemia patients. Bone marrow from a relative continues to be the preferred source of stem cells, but each year some 16,000 patients in the U.S. fail to find such a match.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Mary J. Laughlin at the Ireland Cancer Center in Cleveland analyzed the outcomes of 600 leukemia patients who had received cord-blood transplants, bone marrow transplants from a relative, or bone marrow from a closely matched nonrelative. Patients who received bone marrow from relatives fared the best, with 33% of patients surviving the disease. But those who received cord blood did just as well as those who received bone marrow from an unrelated donor -- 22% of both groups survived. "This study should provide reassurance" to doctors using cord blood, says Laughlin.
By Catherine Arnst
Edited by Otis Port