Researchers from Northwestern University have shown that children with high-risk acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) receiving umbilical cord blood transplants have similar outcomes to patients receiving related allogeneic stem cell transplants. The details of this comparative study were presented at the Third Annual International Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation Symposium in Los Angeles, Calif., June 3-4, 2005.

For children without a related or unrelated donor, umbilical cord blood transplants are becoming a common treatment for children with high-risk ALL. Several reports have suggested that the results of umbilical cord blood transplants are as effective as transplants from unrelated donors. Now, researchers have demonstrated that umbilical cord blood transplants are as effective as related donor transplants for the treatment of high-risk ALL.

The current study compared the outcomes of children with high-risk ALL receiving HLA matched related transplants with those receiving umbilical cord blood transplants. Table 1 summarizes the main findings of this comparative study.

These data add further to the data suggesting that umbilical cord blood is an acceptable source of stem cells for children with ALL. The main importance of these observations is that a transplant can be performed much more rapidly when an umbilical cord blood transplant is performed than when an unrelated donor transplant is performed. Since many children die or become too sick to be transplanted while waiting for an unrelated donor to be identified and set up for donation it would appear that umbilical cord blood would be a preferable choice for most high-risk children with ALL.

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