Thanks to a new federal grant, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is about to lead a clinical trial offering cord blood transplants to a small group of especially vulnerable patients with blood cancers: those who also have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Cord blood transplants, which use stem cells from a newborn’s umbilical cord, are a lifesaving option for patients who cannot find a suitable match in their family and from the global network of bone marrow registries. Transplants are a potential cure for many advanced blood cancers, because they replace a patient’s damaged immune system of blood-forming cells with a healthy one from a donor with a compatible tissue type.
Although lymphomas are the most common blood cancers faced by HIV-positive patients taking antiviral drugs, they usually have options other than a transplant to treat their cancer. It is much less common for people with HIV to have leukemia, but these patients typically have no option but a transplant. The participants in this trial are therefore most likely to come from that group.