Parents' Interest in Cord Blood To Treat Autism, CP Grows Fervently

It's been a short six months since the FDA granted Duke University Medical Center additional access in the treatment of brain injuries such as autism and cerebral palsy using stored cord blood, and since then, we have been inundated with requests from parents looking for more information on how to get their own son or daughter into the clinical trial. We've also heard stories of young parents traveling half way around the globe for their family's chance to take part in the treatment.

The studies using cord blood to treat brain injuries by Duke University began in 2014, and we have been watching them closely. The various phases of a clinical trial take years to complete, but exciting, promising news has become available from time to time:

Timeline of Events from Brain Injury Clinical Trials

Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
Dr. Dawson & Dr. Kurtzberg have led the brain injury trials at Duke
In June 2014, Duke Medicine was awarded $15 million to support an innovative research program to explore the use of umbilical cord blood cells to treat autism, stroke, cerebral palsy and related brain disorders.
Late 2015
World Stem Cell Summit logo
In late 2015, at the World Stem Cell Summit, Dr. Kurtzberg gave everyone an upbeat update in the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells to treat autism, driving anticipation for the study's full results.
Late 2016
thumbnail for video of young autistic boy's speech improvements
(Click to read the blog and watch the videos)
In late 2016, we were able to show you some of the early results including two videos of young boys who showed remarkable improvements in their autism as a result of the study.
thumbnail for video of young CP patient who learned to walk
(Click to read the blog and watch the video)
We were also able to give you a sneak peek of Duke University's clinical trial using cord blood in the treatment of cerebral palsy, including a video of one little boy who made improvements in his walking above and beyond what would, otherwise, be expected.
Early 2017
thumbnail for CNN video of young girl with autism
(Click to read the blog and watch the video)
The results of Duke University's clinical trial using cord blood to treat autism were officially released in early 2017, and it made headlines, with CNN running a story of one little girl who took part in the study and was showing significant improvements in her autism.
Late 2017
Joanne Kurtzberg
Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg is cautiously optimisitc of what they have found thus far
Later that year, Duke released its official findings from a phase II clinical trial using cord blood to treat cerebral palsy. This was quickly followed by great news for parents who were not able to take part in the original trials: Because of the results observed, the FDA had granted Duke University additional access for the treatment of autism, cerebral palsy and other brain injuries. The various brain injuries being treated were also placed under one umbrella clinical trial.

Interest in the Study Skyrockets

It's around the time of the CNN story on autism that parents' interest in the trial first ramped up. In 2017, we saw a 330% increase in the number of transplantation requests from parents wishing to use their stored cord blood for the treatment of a brain injury compared with the year prior. In fact, the total number of brain-injury requests in 2017 was nearly double that of 2014 through 2016—combined!

Much of 2017's growth came late in the year after the announcement that the FDA was granting Duke additional access, and that high level of interest has continued into 2018. In these first 4 months of 2018, we've seen nearly a 500% increase in the number of requests for cord blood in the treatment of brain injuries compared to the same time period in 2017, and we will easily surpass all the requests we had for cord blood to treat brain injuries in 2017 during the first half of 2018.

In addition to the great growth in interest for the clinical trial that we've personally witnessed, we've heard of families from around the globe who have made the trek to Duke University just to take part in the study. A seven-year-old British boy flew to the United States from the United Kingdom to be infused with his brother's cord blood stem cells, making him the first British child to take part in the treatment. There's also the four-year-old boy with autism whose family flew from India to take part in the clinical trial. His father now says he have seen "great progress" in his son's developmental milestones.

Drivers of Interest

A reduction in the number and level of requirements to join the clinical trial has helped drive the growth we are seeing. The first phases were only open to children between the age of 2 and 7 with English-speaking parents and who met a number of other criteria. The new trial is open to anyone under 18 years and has far fewer guidelines that the family needs to meet. The major driving factor, however, is the results produced. They have provided hope for our ability to treat brain abnormalities and injuries that have remained untreatable by medical science up till this point.

Posted: 4/16/2018 5:26:53 PM by Benjamin Greene