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When Tyler Colosimo met Dr. Colleen Delaney, a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator, he had just started his final year of college, but it wasn't clear that he would finish. Tyler had an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and his prognosis was "grim." AML is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.
A bone marrow transplant donor could not be identified - a situation common to approximately 30% of Caucasians & most minority or mixed ethnicity patients. For these patients, umbilical cord blood offers the hope of a cure, and Tyler became the third person to enroll in Delaney's experimental cord blood transplant trial.
Umbilical cord blood doesn't require close matching with the patient. However, cord blood contains only one tenth of the stem cells as bone marrow. Thus, there is a significant delay in the recovery of the blood system, especially in white blood cells that fight infection. This is a dangerous period for patients, who often encounter infections that can be fatal.
Dr. Delaney's lab uses technology that dramatically increases the number of cord blood stem cells available. On the day of Tyler's transplant, Delaney delivered the "expanded" unit herself and stayed by his bedside during the infusion, as she does for all of her patients. Within nine days, Tyler showed signs of white cell recovery. Within four weeks, he was discharged, free of any cancer symptoms. He has now graduated from college and is hoping to soon begin teaching English in South Korea.