Cord Blood Transplantation
A cord blood transplant is a hematopoietic (blood) stem cell transplant that uses cord blood instead of bone marrow or peripheral blood as the source of blood-producing stem cells for the transplant. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a leader in hematopoietic cell transplantation, a procedure that began with the Center’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation.
In 2006, the Hutchinson Center launched its Cord Blood Program, which has performed more than 200 cord blood transplants through clinical trials aimed at improving and expanding this treatment. This research is playing a critical role in making cord blood transplants a lifesaving treatment option for patients.
What is a Cord Blood Transplant?
A cord blood transplant is a hematopoietic stem cell transplant that uses cord blood instead of bone marrow or peripheral blood as the source of blood-producing stem cells for the transplant. The transplant restores a patient’s ability to produce healthy blood cells, some of which are essential to the immune system’s ability to fight infections.
Cord blood is found within the placenta and umbilical cords of newborn babies and is collected after childbirth. Collecting cord blood does not harm the mother or her baby. After collection, cord blood is tested for tissue type and viruses, processed for freezing, and stored until it is needed for transplantation.
The first cord blood transplant was performed in 1988 on a patient diagnosed with the blood disorder Fanconi Anemia. Since then, more than 20,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide to treat blood cancers and other blood and immune system disorders.
Breakthrough Research Leads to New Treatments
The Hutchinson Center’s Cord Blood Program is directed by Dr. Colleen Delaney, a recognized leader in advancing cord blood transplantation and developing new therapeutic uses for cord blood. Delaney and colleagues have developed an innovative technique to dramatically improve cord blood transplants. This technique multiplies the number of stem cells found in cord blood donations. Clinical trials have shown that patients who receive transplants with an expanded number of cord blood stem cells regain their ability to fight infections faster. This may lead to more successful transplants and even possibly an off-the-shelf treatment that can be stored and used as needed to treat a variety of hematological diseases.
There are an estimated 15,000 patients in need of a stem cell transplant every year. Up to 40 percent of them cannot be matched with an identified donor with the same tissue type. Matching donors are even more difficult to identify for patients from ethnic minority and mixed racial backgrounds. Cord blood transplants offer hope to these patients because unlike bone marrow, cord blood stem cells do not require a perfect tissue match for a successful transplantation.