Helping people with cancer create their own healthy blood

25 September 2018

Promising results in a recent clinical trial have shown that a new process helps increase the number of stem cells that can be harvested from umbilical cord blood.

Typically, stem cells are used in treatment for blood cancer and are transplanted into a patient’s body to help that patient make healthy blood cells. Ideally, stem cells can be taken from newborns’ umbilical cord blood and transplanted into adults to replenish healthy blood cells and to create a new immune system that will identify and destroy cancer cells. However, the amount of stem cells in one cord blood donation usually isn’t enough for an adult with blood cancer.

CCS-funded researcher Dr Sandra Cohen has found a way to increase the number of stem cells that can be harvested from umbilical cord blood by 35 times over 7 days. Her clinical trial uses a small molecule that attaches to stem cells, preventing them from becoming different or “specialized” cells that stop replicating. Instead, they remain as stem cells and continue to grow and duplicate. By using this molecule, the number of stem cells continues to increase until they are harvested and can be implanted into a patient.

“We’re very encouraged by the results we’ve seen in being able to increase the amount of stem cells we can generate to help patients with blood cancer produce more healthy blood cells,” says Dr Cohen. “We’ve seen fewer post-transplant complications and shorter hospital stays for these patients.”

The research team will monitor the patients for the next 3 years and are hoping to start a second clinical trial to test the treatment in patients with multiple myeloma.

Did you know that you can help fund cancer research discoveries like Dr Cohen’s? By purchasing a Gift of Discovery or choosing to Stock a Laboratory, you can play an active role in helping Canada’s best cancer researchers make discoveries that can change the way we prevent, diagnose, treat and live with cancer.