A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has shown that a new umbilical cord blood stem cell treatment could be safe to use on patients who previously required a bone marrow transplant. The researchers found that 94% of adult cancer patients who received the treatment had successful stem cells grafts in the weeks that followed.
The new treatment expands and cultures cord blood stem cells outside of the patient’s body before transplanting them. This allows the doctors to transplant much larger doses of umbilical cord stem cells to the patient.
Previously, doctors would mostly use umbilical cord blood treatments on children. Unfortunately, the low stem cell count found in small umbilical cord blood samples made it difficult to successfully use cord blood treatments on adults. This new treatment overcomes this limitation by creating more umbilical cord blood stem cells in the laboratory.
As professor and lead researcher Dr. Mitchell Horwitz of Duke University explains: "Although umbilical cord blood transplantation has been used for 30 years, expansion technology represents an opportunity to improve the results for adult patients."
After the test subjects received their umbilical cord blood transplants, all patients began to see a restored blood count within 6 weeks. The procedure, known as NiCord, was developed by immune therapy company Gamida Cell. They intend to perform more trials to obtain the required approvals from the FDA.
Dr. Horwitz explained the benefit of using umbilical cord blood stem cells this way: "Compared to standard cord blood transplant, the reduction in recovery time translates into significant improvement in the safety profile of the transplant procedure. It's when their blood counts are low that patients are most vulnerable to infections, so by reducing that time to 11.5 days, we shorten that vulnerable period."