News and Events
Cord Blood News 6/21/2007
Editorial: Congress: Fully fund cord-blood initiative Increasing the inventory of units will save lives.
Date: 06. 2007
Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul); Published June 21, 2007
The results of research led by a University of Minnesota transplant specialist and published in the Lancet this month provided good news for families of children with advanced leukemia. Umbilical-cord blood, the study confirmed, is as effective a treatment as bone-marrow transplants.
Now the issue is how to expand inventories of frozen cord blood so that enough units will be available for all who need treatment. Congress can do much to help, by following through on funding goals it set in establishing just such an effort earlier this decade.
That follow-through is important because umbilical-cord blood has several advantages over bone-marrow transplants. The match doesn't have to be as precise -- and the recent research found fewer cases of "graft-vs.-host disease" complications in the children in the umbilical-cord group. It also should be easier to persuade people to be donors, since the process involves simply having new mothers donate their newborn's umbilical cord to a cord-blood bank.
The study involved several hundred children 16 years old or younger for whom other treatments hadn't worked. Some received cells from cord blood, while others received bone-marrow transplants. Since the results were equally effective and bone-marrow waiting lists for good matches can be long, the prospects for patients look brighter indeed.
As the U's Dr. John Wagner told the Star Tribune for its June 8 story on his research, "The results are tremendously encouraging. What this means is we can find donors for almost anyone."
Minneapolis is at the center of all this, and not just because of the university's involvement in research and transplantation. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is headquartered here; in addition to its work in helping patients through the marrow search and transplant process, it supports donors, fosters research -- and is also the nation's Cord Blood Coordinating Center.
Congress has taken several steps over the past few years to encourage cord-blood-bank collections and expand inventories. In 2006 six cord-blood banks received funding to help reach Congress' goal of expanding the cord-blood inventory to 150,000 units within five years. But if these programs are to continue and new ones are to be started, Congress must appropriate $15 million this year to fully fund the National Cord Blood Inventory.
The U and the NMDR are doing their part to lead. Minnesota's delegation should press shoulder to shoulder to help them succeed.