Umbilical cord blood of local goes global
A Hawaii donation aids a Frenchman in need of stem cells
A Hodgkin's disease patient in France is the 12th person to be treated with umbilical cord blood donations from Hawaii, said Dr. Randal Wada, founder of the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank.
This is the second match in France from Hawaii-donated cord blood, he said.
A new baby's cord might save a life
Couples expecting a baby could help save someone's life by donating the umbilical cord blood to the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank after the birth. To obtain more information and sign up as donors, call 983-BANK (2265) or see www.HCBB.org.
One unit of cord blood went to a patient in Spain for a transplant, but all other matches were for patients on the mainland, said Wada, a molecular biologist and bone marrow transplant surgeon
Wada performed the first cord blood transplant at UCLA Medical Center on an 8-year-old boy with leukemia before returning here to join the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in 1996.
Umbilical cord blood isn't the same as embryonic stem cells, but it's rich in stem cells and can be used to treat life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and genetic and immune system disorders.
Umbilical cords ordinarily are thrown away and Wada and his team have been working to encourage donations since he started the Cord Blood Bank in 1998 with Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
The National Marrow Donor Program is predicting cord blood will exceed marrow as a stem cell source for transplants in the next fiscal year, Arnold Hiura noted in a Hawaii Cord Blood Bank newsletter this month.
He said cord blood made up 1 percent of all stem cell transplants (cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells) facilitated by the National Marrow Donor Program in 2002-2003.
In 2005-2006, he said, cord blood was used for 15 percent of all transplants and in the fourth quarter of this year, it made up 19 percent of transplants versus 21 percent with bone marrow.
It's not that people who were getting bone marrow transplants are now getting cord blood transplants, Wada said. "It's that people who were unable to get any transplants whatsoever are getting them because they're able to utilize cord blood units."
Cord blood units don't have to meet strict matching requirements, which gives more people a chance for a transplant, Wada said.
"It isn't replacing bone marrow; it complements it very nicely. Because we have a minority population, we stand to gain from this phenomenon ourselves."
The Hawaii cord blood unit sent to the French man was part of a double-cord transplant, Wada said. "It is becoming established that using two cord blood units is an effective way to do a transplant on an adult who might otherwise be too large for a single cord blood unit."
The two units don't even have to match each other, he said. "Yet in the end, only one unit engrafts in the patient. Rather than fighting it out with each other, the cells from the two units somehow cooperate so that one of them eventually takes hold and grows in the patient."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects 10,500 new units of cord blood to be added to the National Cord Blood Inventory in the first year, according to Puget Sound Blood Center. The program now stores more than 4,000 units.
Dr. Thomas Price, executive vice president and medical director of the Puget Sound Blood Center, said in a news release on the new funding that the need for cord blood is expected to grow about 20 percent per year over the next several years.
The Washington state center has become a leader in cord blood banking with help from the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank and Hawaii hospitals, which have provided the bank with expanded ethnic diversity, Wada said.
"It helps for us to get more support from them to maintain our operations on this end," Wada said. "They've always been very good partners for us."