Stem cell treatment helps baby with cancer

December 24, 2008 3:13:10 PM PST
There are some types of childhood leukemia where chemotherapy and radiation don't work. These cancers are often fatal, even with aggressive treatment. Now doctors are turning to experimental stem cell therapies to give kids a fighting chance.

Adolfo Gonzalez will never forget the day his two-year-old son was born. "It was incredible, the best feeling ever," he said.

The excitement turned to devastation one year later when a doctor diagnosed little Adolfo with a rare form of leukemia called JMML.

"He (the doctor) said with or without treatment, your son will not survive," added Gonzales.

Instead of giving up, the family found Doctor Gary Kleiner at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

"Most of the cases are fatal by the time the child is three years old," said Dr. Kleiner.

Dr. Kleiner enrolled Adolfo in a trial testing umbilical cord blood transfusions.

"The stem cells from the cord blood started to grow in his own bone marrow and his white count started to increase back to normal," said Dr. Kleiner.

The new blood created by the stem cells replaced all of Adolfo's blood and eliminated the leukemia cells in his body.

"100 percent of your blood is converted over to the cord blood, it's rare to see a relapse of leukemia," adds Dr. Kleiner.

But Adolfo's troubles weren't over. His new cells began to attack his body. Standard drugs didn't help, so doctors turned to stem cells once again. As part of another experimental treatment, Adolfo received eight infusions of adult stem cells to stop the destruction. It worked and now there's no evidence of cancer in his body.

Adolfo may not remember the tough first years of his life and that's okay by dad. "He's going to be a great little boy. He's going to be just a normal little kid."