This past October, Cryo-Cell’s passionate team of cord blood educators met with Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, from Duke University Medical Center, to hear about the latest developments in clinical trials using cord blood and cord tissue. As Dr. Kurtzberg spoke with optimism and a determined focus on the need for more research in the realm of cord blood regenerative therapies, one thing became glaringly obvious. To those in the room, this work is more than just helping families in need; it’s about impacting the culture surrounding cord blood preservation.
The tireless efforts of Dr. Kurtzberg, the medical team at Duke, and the cord blood educators in the field spreading the message about the life-saving potential of cord blood stem cells goes beyond work’s duty; these efforts comprise their every waking moment. And why should they not? After seeing the pictures of countless families and reading the notes of gratitude from children and families who survived their diagnosis because of cord blood and cord tissue stem cells, it illuminated the cause behind why we at Cryo-Cell do what we do. Our clients—our families—are our reason why.
We are privileged to work with Dr. Kurtzberg as our medical director. Her latest, groundbreaking work in the areas of autism, cerebral palsy, Hurler’s Syndrome, and Krabbe’s Disease highlight the fact that umbilical stem cells are being used with, “very encouraging results and we need to pursue this [cord blood research] further.” Her work in the most recent Phase II clinical trial with autism is expected to be released in the next upcoming months, and her finished Phase I and Phase II trial results for adults with leukemia are scheduled to be posted in 2020. She revealed other clinical trial research in stages of completion for various other diseases, through the use of cell expansion, in which we eagerly await the results.
In addition to research, Dr. Kurtzberg went on to share a few heartwarming stories from cord blood transplant patients such as Sean. Sean was a child with Philadelphia Chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL), who was diagnosed at the age of 10 and received a transplant through an unrelated donor. Today, he attends Oxford University with a major in Astrophysics. Catie shares a similar story of diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of two. At the age of twenty-three, she expresses her thankfulness in a letter stating, “I want to thank you for your dedication to finding a cure for blood-based cancers. Your discovery saved my life, and I will forever be grateful.” Hunter’s story is one of infant acute myeloid leukemia, otherwise known as AML. His family reports, “At 12 months old, he had already relapsed with leukemia while still on chemo, and we had no other options. So, in June 2000, we went to Dr. Kurtzberg as our last chance at saving Hunter. Hunter is now a vibrant, healthy, 20-year-old man. How do you thank someone for saving your baby? Thank you for allowing us to see our son grow and flourish.” Dr. Kurtzberg went on to share pictures, notes, and recall the “new day” or “first birthdays” of many other children, now adults, who underwent cord blood transplants for differing conditions. These patients represent just a small fraction of people--survivors--who have forever been changed due to the work of her, Dr. Broxmeyer, and the Duke medical team.
Dr. Kurtzberg concluded with a statement that resonated with all of us and reminded us all of how critical it is that we continue to share the meaningfulness of cord blood preservation. Her aspiration, coupled with ours, is that the practice of cord blood stem cell therapy will become commonplace. Every expectant parent should be armed with the knowledge of what cord blood stem cells are capable of doing, not just in what lies in future outcomes, but how it is currently being used to treat today’s conditions. The stem cells found in cord blood have helped patients like Sean, Catie, Hunter, Spencer, Michelle, Koko, Matt, Conner, Christopher, Emma, and numerous others to survive their diagnosis and live to share many precious milestones with their families. It is a compelling reminder that the future of umbilical stem cells looks bright; but, so does today. With this reminder, we fervently continue to press forward in our efforts to impact one family at a time through the message of cord blood banking.