A Kolkata-based cancer research institute claimed on Friday that it had carried out the country's first successful mixed stem cell transplant on a five-year-old boy suffering from HbE-Beta Thalassemia. A mixture of cord blood and bone marrow cells collected from the boy's younger sister was transplanted to his body, it said.
The feat assumes greater significance in the light of the fact that the transplant could be successfully done even as the blood groups of the siblings were dissimilar, according to researchers at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute and stem-cell bank CordLife.
In 2006, Moinam Pal was barely seven months old when his parents noticed him growing paler by the day and took him to a paediatrician, who diagnosed him with HbE-Beta Thalassemia.
“We were told that it is an inherited blood disorder that results in excessive destruction of red blood cells and causes anaemia. While Moinam had to undergo regular blood transfusions and medication to keep his red blood cell count at a normal level, our frantic search for an institute that could perform stem-cell transplantation took us to NSCB Cancer Research Institute,” Moinam's father Ashim Kumar Pal said at a press conference.
Director of the institute Ashis Mukherjee advised the couple to try for a second baby, whose cord blood cells could be collected and transplanted to Moinam's body in order to give him a fresh lease of life.
Moinam's sister, Ahoma, was born in 2009 and her umbilical cord blood was immediately collected and preserved for her brother's treatment. Fortunately, Ahoma's cells perfectly matched Moinam's during human leukocyte antigen matching.
“We decided to use a mixture of both bone marrow and cord blood cells as it has a better and faster chance of success than only bone marrow cells, which could have taken five to seven years to give proper results. The mixture transplanted on April 3, started showing positive results in 22 days,” Dr. Mukherjee said. The entire transplant process cost around Rs. 5 lakh.
Overwhelmed by emotions, Moinam's mother Manisha Paul expressed her gratefulness to Dr. Mukherjee: “He was the one who had assured us when we had lost all hope.”