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Frozen Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Cure Toddler’s Cancer

LifeSiteNews.com

By Hilary White

BRISTOL, UK, February 12, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A two year old girl from Suffolk has been cured of a rare form of cancer using genetically matched adult stem cells from a Japanese donor. Last week, news reports around the world revealed Sorrel Mason, a toddler from Great Wratting in Suffolk suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia, received a transplant of donated cells from a frozen umbilical cord from Tokyo.

Sorrel’s mother, Samantha Mason, told media, "Sorrel would be dead now if she had been left untreated." The little girl was given a 30 per cent chance of survival when she was diagnosed. She has fully recovered since her treatment a year ago.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a cancer of the white blood cells in which the abnormal cells proliferate and accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.

Treatment normally involves chemotherapy, but haematopoietic stem cell transplant, involving cells taken from bone marrow or blood, is increasingly being used. Most frequently, haematopoietic stem cell transplants take the cells from the patient’s own blood or bone marrow or those from a close relative. The cells used must be a close enough match to avoid immune system rejection.

Sorrel’s treatment was done at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, which is a leading centre in the treatment of childhood leukaemia. Dr Jackie Cornish, director of the bone marrow transplant unit at the Bristol hospital, said their facility is among the best in Europe in stem cell transplant treatments and has been a leader in extending the pool of donors for stem cells.

"There is a choice," she said to the Evening Post. "We can have a brother or sister donor, a matched or acceptably mismatched unrelated donor, we can go to the umbilical cord blood panel and test for a match from there, or we can use a mismatched family relation, commonly a mother or father."

"We were the first to develop unrelated donor transplant in such volume, and we have all of the spectrum of donors to choose from."

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