Cord Blood Treatments Today – Fanconi Anemia | ViaCord
Cord blood gets a lot of attention for its enormous potential. While that’s understandable – researchers are continually pursuing potential new medical applications using cord blood stem cells to treat everything from diabetes to cerebral palsy – it’s important to remember that these cells are also saving lives today, as a proven therapy for dozens of diseases and disorders.
One of these is Fanconi anemia, an inherited blood disorder that interferes with the body’s ability to make blood cells.
More specifically, Fanconi anemia stops the body’s bone marrow from making enough blood cells and can also cause it to make defective cells. Since blood cells perform some of the body’s most important functions – like carrying oxygen, fixing injuries and fighting infections – this can cause severe health problems.
Without enough red blood cells, the body’s tissues won’t get enough oxygen to function properly. Without enough white blood cells, it’s harder to fight infections. And having too few platelets can stop blood from clotting normally.
This can make patients get sick more often, make infections worse and create bleeding problems.
Fanconi anemia is usually diagnosed during childhood and some symptoms, like misshapen hands and toes, are obvious at birth. Patients might also suffer from severe fatigue, chronic infections and frequent bruising, and often develop leukemia or other cancers. The average lifespan for those suffering from the disease is only about 25 years.
For the approximately one in every 130,000 U.S. children afflicted with Fanconi anemia there is fortunately a cure for the bone marrow failure caused by this disease.
Cord blood transplants offer proven treatment
A stem cell transplant using cells from donated cord blood or bone marrow is the only known way to stop Fanconi anemia’s effects on the blood system. In this treatment, doctors will use a low dose of pre-transplant chemotherapy drugs and/or radiation to reduce the defective bone marrow in the patient. Then, the donated healthy stem cells are injected into the patient’s bloodstream. The goal is for those cells to make their way into the patient’s bone marrow and start creating new healthy blood cells on their own, essentially replacing the faulty cells and enabling the new healthy donor bone marrow to function correctly.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find an appropriate stem cell donor. Fanconi anemia patients can’t use their own cord blood because its stem cells have the same problem as their current cells. Compared to patients with leukemia and other blood diseases, Fanconi anemia patients don’t respond as well to stem cells that come from people who aren’t related to them, although outcomes are improving. The most effective cell sources for these patients are their siblings.1
Banking guarantees access to potential treatments
Banking your child’s cord blood is one of the best ways to ensure your family could potentially use a relative’s stem cells if there’s ever a need for a stem cell transplant. In fact, the first-ever cord blood transplant successfully treated a six-year-old Fanconi anemia patient in 1988.2 And, of the 225 units ViaCord has released for treatment, five have been used to treat the disease.
If you already have a child with an established diagnosisof Fanconi anemia, or another disease that’s currently treatable with cord blood stem cells, we’re dedicated to helping you through ViaCord’s Sibling Connection program. Our program may collect, process and store your baby’s cord blood for five years free of charge – if you’re an expectant parent who meets our program’s enrollment requirements.
When you bank your baby’s cord blood, you’re doing more than banking on its potential. You’re giving your child access to some of the most advanced treatments available today.