Leukaemia

Stories of Hope: One man’s journey with leukaemia has turned into a quest to make bone marrow stem cell transplants safer

Simply put, Leukaemia is a kind of cancer that results in the abnormal production of white blood cells in the body. The only successful treatment that had been known for it is chemotherapy, which keeps it under check. But the recent medical developments have witnessed the use of cord blood stem cell treatment for Leukaemia patients that aren’t cured by chemotherapy alone.

Understanding Leukaemia
This disease is a cancer caused in the bone marrow that gradually leads to a very weak immune system. Individuals affected with this disease often experience infections. Furthermore, the white blood cells that are produced rather abnormally starts cluttering the bone marrow prohibiting the generation of other kinds of blood cells that further causes bleeding, bruises and also anaemia.

How cord blood stem cell can treat leukaemia?
A cord blood stem cell transplant engages managing high amounts of chemotherapy and in some situations radiotherapy to kill the cancerous cells that’s in the patient’s bone marrow and blood stream. The new cord blood stem cells that have been transplanted to the body gradually learn to settle in the bone marrow, gradually giving birth to the healthy blood cells. This treatment is only applicable for patient’s that have a critical case of leukaemia.

A story of hope
The medical globe has been buzzing with success stories of cord blood stem cell transplant that has cured many chronic ailments. Leukaemia being one! Here’s the account of Lukas Waterman, who happens to be a doctor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that induces hope and courage. Lukas was first detected with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) back in 2003. And since then the man has resorted to almost 70 drugs to heal the disease and opted in for two bone marrow stem cell transplant to combat his cancer.

His very first stem cell transplant donor was his brother. Along with the immunosuppressive drugs this transplant seemed to have been successful without any complicacies. However, after a couple of years the cancer came back which made Lukas go in for a second stem cell transplant from a donor not in the family tree. And though this transplant too had worked for him, it made him attract another chronic ailment known as the graft vs host disease (GVHD). This means the stem cell transplant that had actually healed him was now violently attacking his body. Sometimes GVHD is a natural off-shoot of bone marrow transplants.

In GVHD the transplanted immune cells of the donor, medically termed as the T cells start to grow and then attack the tissues and cells in the body, as it appears to them that it’s an alien invader. In almost 50% of bone marrow stem cell transplant GVHD is a possible occurrence that has an adverse effect on the liver, skin, intestines, mouth and eyes. However, there’s hope for this! A promising stem cell therapy named Prochymal that has been developed by Dr. Randy Mills, former CIRM President and CEO, Osiris Therapeutics is known to heal extreme cases of this disease. Presently, this treatment is in use and being experimented on the phase 3 trials for young children’s and adults in US.

However, individuals like Lukas Wartman are a real inspiration to people that have attracted GVHD and have suffered from Leukaemia. He is also a reason why most medical researchers are practising to arrive at advanced treatment for this ailment. No doctor wants patients to suffer either from Leukaemia or GVHD quietly for a prolonged time. The account of Lukas Wartman is a reminder to the medical sphere that there’s immense work to be in the domain of stem cell bone marrow transplant to ensure that the adverse side effects are kept in control and patients don’t have to fret about contracting another disease in an effort to treat one.

Sources:
One man’s journey with leukemia has turned into a quest to make bone marrow stem cell transplants safer
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-25/stem-cell-transplants-for-leukaemia-explained/7351936
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myelomonocytic-leukemia/treating/stem-cell-transplant.html

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