Cord Blood Program

Since its launch in 2006, our Cord Blood Transplant Program has performed nearly 500 transplants in patients with blood cancer and other diseases, ranging from 1 to 71 years old. Our investigators are leaders in the field who collaborate with colleagues at Fred Hutch and many other institutions to improve outcomes for cord blood transplant patients. We have made significant advances by improving conditioning regimens and optimizing post-transplant infection prevention.

Dr. Colleen Delaney discussed treatment with a patient
Dr. Colleen Delaney discussing treatment with a patient Fred Hutch

Lifesaving Treatment

Cord blood transplants can help save the lives of patients with leukemia as well as other blood cancers and genetic diseases. Found in the placenta and the umbilical cords of newborns, cord blood stem cells mature to form healthy blood and immune cells.

Cord blood is transplanted into patients after chemotherapy and radiation to kill their cancer cells. Eventually new cancer-free cells take hold in the patient’s blood system and begin producing healthy cells. Cord blood as a source of stem cells offers many benefits over bone marrow and peripheral blood:

  • It is stored in cord blood banks after collection and is available on demand, reducing the wait time for transplant.
  • It does not need to be matched to the patient as precisely as other donor sources, increasing the availability of lifesaving treatment to patients who otherwise would not be able to find a suitable donor.
  • It carries lower risks of viral infection from the donor and of graft-versus-host disease, a serious complication in which donor cells attack patient tissues.
  • As a donor source, cord blood results in better outcomes for leukemia patients with high risk of relapse when compared to adult unrelated donors

The disadvantage, though, is that cord blood contains only a small number of the stem cells needed to repopulate the blood system. This increases the time it takes for the new blood and immune system to take hold, leaving patients vulnerable to life-threatening infections during that period. The most common way to address this is using two cord blood units, and this approach has greatly improved outcomes for patients. However, there is still increased risk of infection for a period of time after transplant. We continue to explore methods to reduce risks and improve outcomes by improving conditioning regimens and optimizing
post-transplant infection prevention.

"All physicians who have taken care of patients going through transplant have seen someone die unexpectedly from infection. That risk is unacceptable."

—Dr. Colleen Delaney

Patient Stories

Jessie Quinn and family

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is an acute myelogenous leukemia survivor, a mother, wife, scientist. And pioneer. In September 2010, she was the first to participate in a clinical trial led by Colleen Delaney to study using previously expanded unmatched cord blood cells to augment her transplant.

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Jenna Gibson

Jenna Gibson

Jenna Gibson was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was 9 years old. She was treated with a cord blood transplant that saved her life. She and her mother, Julie, share their story.

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Kyra Diaz

Kyra Diaz

At age 8, Kyra Diaz was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder that impedes bone marrow from making enough red blood cells. Undergoing a procedure that would save her life, Kyra was the first person to receive expanded cord blood cells to augment the transplant for her condition.

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Cord blood patients with visitors

Hugh Fagan

Father and husband Hugh Fagan fell ill with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2009. Unwilling to give up hope, Fagan’s wife Aimee pored over cancer reports and researched online until she found Colleen Delaney at Fred Hutch.

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Filippo Milano, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Director

Dr. Milano's research is focused on improving the outcomes for cord blood transplant recipients.  He has carried out pivotal analyses of outcomes using cord blood versus conventional stem cell sources.  His goal is to expand the alternative donor program with an emphasis on identifying novel regimens/stem cell source combinations that are disease specific and can reduce post-transplant mortality and relapse.

Colleen Delaney, M.D., M.Sc.

Founder and Affiliate Investigator

Dr. Delaney’s primary research interests focus on the growth of umbilical cord blood stem and progenitor cells in the lab for clinical applications. Her goal is to develop therapies that, when administered, improve the outcome of patients who suffer severe side effects related to cord blood transplant or intensive chemotherapy.

Ann Dahlberg, M.D.

Dr. Dahlberg is a clinical scholar focused on the long-term care and outcomes of patients receiving alternative-donor transplants. She also has a specific interest in the use of our non-HLA matched expanded cell product as a supportive-care measure in pediatric patients

Rachel Salit, M.D.

Dr. Salit is a clinical scholar focused on the long-term care and outcomes of patients receiving alternative-donor transplants. She also has a specific interest in the use of reduced intensity conditioning regimens for cord blood transplant.

Corinne Summers, M.D.

Dr. Summers' research is focused on the development of cellular therapy for leukemia. Specifically, the development of T-cell therapies that potentially prevent relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in patients who received cord blood transplants. She is engineering cord blood T cells to target leukemia cells. Her goal is to create engineered T cells that can kill residual leukemia cells after a patient has received a cord blood transplant.

Clinical Trials

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Contact Us

Bonnie J. Kraskouskas

Research Administration Manager, Cord Blood Transplant Program

Physical / Mailing Address

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Mail Stop MD-B306
1100 Fairview Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109