Researchers find two units of umbilical cord blood reduce risk of leukemia recurrence

November 13, 2009

A new study from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota shows that patients who have acute leukemia and are transplanted with two units of umbilical cord blood (UCB) have significantly reduced risk of the disease returning. This finding has the potential to change the current medical practice of using one unit of UCB for treatment of patients who are at high risk for recurrence of leukemia and other cancers of the blood and bone marrow.

Michael Verneris, M.D., and John Wagner, M.D., who specialize in research and treatment of children with cancer, led the research team on this breakthrough study. The results are published in the current issue of the scientific medical journal Blood. This study was funded with grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Children's Cancer Research Fund.

Verneris and his colleagues studied 177 patients treated at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital between 1994 and 2008. The average age of the patients in this study was 16 years. Eighty-eight patients had (ALL) and 89 had (AML).

"Our analysis showed that patients in first or second remission from the leukemia had a significantly lower likelihood of leukemia recurrence if they were transplanted with two UCB units than if they were transplanted with one (19 percent vs. 34 percent)," says Verneris.

"We believe our finding provides evidence that using two units of UCB for transplantation may be more effective in preventing leukemia relapse and gives hope to patients with hematological malignancies so that they may live cancer-free," he says.

Blood and marrow has been a mainstay treatment for patients with high risk leukemia and other hematological malignancies for the past 30 years. In the last decade, the blood in the placenta and umbilical cord has been collected and banked for public use. Now, UCB is routinely used throughout the world as an alternative to bone marrow transplantation.

However, because of the limited number of cells in UCB, this stem cell source has been reserved for young children and small adults. The practice of using two UCB units (from two different individuals) was pioneered at the University of Minnesota approximately 10 years ago. By using two UCB units, nearly all patients can now use this stem cell source for transplantation.

Previous research studies have also shown that about 25 to 30 percent of patients suffer leukemia relapse after transplant. The relapse or disease recurrence rates are similar regardless of whether the used for transplantation are from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood.

Verneris and his colleagues compared the outcomes of patients who were transplanted with one verses two UCB units. Forty-seven percent of the patients received one unit of UCB; the remaining patients received two units. The choice to receive one versus two units was based on the number of stem cells contained in the UCB. Since the number of stem cells needed for a successful transplant varies with the patient's weight, older patients and those who weigh more need more stem cells than infants and young children.

"Given that adult patients were more likely to receive two UCB units and that they tend to have more aggressive leukemia, we think that the lower relapse rates with two UCB units is remarkable," says Verneris. He notes that while promising, these results will have to lead to a national study comparing one verses two cord blood units in children with leukemia.

"Prior to the research done by my predecessors, the co-infusion of two UCB units had not previously been performed," says Verneris. "We now know that without this double transplantation procedure, the majority of the patients treated would have had no other reasonable treatment option for their leukemia. The fact that they had less relapse was a wonderful surprise."

Source: University of Minnesota (news : web)

Explore further: Research shows cord blood comparable to matched bone marrow

Related Stories

Research shows cord blood comparable to matched bone marrow

June 8, 2007

University of Minnesota researchers report that umbilical cord blood transplants may offer blood cancer patients better outcomes than bone marrow transplants, according to an analysis of outcome data performed at the Center ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 15, 2009
Good article. However, I am disappointed that they dont reference what the amount of cells they would need per unit. Every cord blood collections has varying amount of cells in it from 100M to 2.xB depending on the collection.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.