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Umbilical Cord Blood Offers Hope For Patients Who Require Bone Marrow Transplants

Leukemia patients in need of a bone marrow transplant may have new hope, say researchers based on findings of a recent study // .Researchers say stem cell transplants from cord blood can be effective in people who don’t have a sibling to serve as a bone marrow donor or those who can’t find a suitable unrelated donor in bone marrow registries.

For the study researchers looked at results of more than 500 adults with leukemia who were undergoing a transplant to treat the most severe form of the disease. None were able to receive the transplant from a matched sibling. Some of the patients received stem cell transplants from cord blood while the remainder received fully matched transplants from unrelated donors or partially matched transplants from unrelated donors.

Results showed survival was highest among those who received the fully matched transplants -- 33 percent. However, the cord blood transplants performed as well as the partially matched transplants, with about 22 percent of patients in each group surviving.

Statistics show about 20,000 leukemia patients every year need a bone marrow transplant, but only about 20 percent of them have a sibling match. The remaining 16,000 patients must seek a donor from bone marrow registries, and only a small percentage of those are able to find a match. Based on their findings researchers say umbilical cord blood, which is normally discarded at birth, could provide an important source of transplants for these individuals.

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