Shortly after she was born, Scottish toddler Adeline Davidson was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called myelodysplasia. This type of cancer is very uncommon, only affecting an estimated 1 in 250,000 children. After her diagnosis, Adeline was forced to have a blood transfusion each week just to stay alive.
Myelodysplasia, also known as MDS, refers to a group of rare blood cancers that prevent immature red blood cells from maturing. The bone marrow is slowly taken over by these immature cells, pushing out healthy blood cells. This leads to the body having an insufficient number of healthy blood cells available.
The symptoms of MDS include frequent infections, shortness of breath, and easy bleeding. People of any age can suffer from MDS, although it is more common in adults over the age of 70.
It is common for people with MDS to also develop acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which is a different form of blood cancer that affects white blood cells. However, the chances of this occurring varies based upon the type of MDS that a patient has.
The best treatment for the condition will depend on the type of MDS the patient has been diagnosed with. However, all treatments are designed to increase the number of mature red blood cells available to the body.
Patients with MDS often receive blood transfusions, antibiotics, and growth factors just to maintain their general health and avoid the worst of the condition’s symptoms. Chemotherapy is sometimes used if the patient has a form of MDS with an increased risk of AML. This prevents the immature blood cells from growing in number too quickly and crowding out healthy blood cells.
Fortunately for Adeline Davidson, a woman in the United States has been discovered to be a stem cell match. This means that doctors can perform an allogenic stem cell transplant. This involves taking healthy blood-forming stem cells from the donor and transplanting them in the patient.
The transplanted stem cells will allow Adeline’s body to generate healthy red blood cells once more. Adeline is expected to receive her transplant in March.