How a baby sister saved her brother's life

July 20, 2011 3:00:57 PM PDT
It's the most common cancer in children and teens. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells that accounts for one out of every three childhood cancers.

Cure rates are higher than ever, but for some children who can't be cured with traditional therapies like chemo, doctors are looking at a new, experimental option: stem cells.

Quentin Murray is a funny, energetic eight-year-old. Hard to believe that just four years ago, he was living with excruciating pain every day.

"My legs would hurt every time I was standing up. I'd be saying, 'Oww!'," he said.

"He was totally healthy and then, all of a sudden, these mysterious aches and pains," Mary Webb Murray, his mother, said.

Weeks later, when Mary was three months pregnant, Quentin was diagnosed with a high-risk, potentially deadly leukemia. His best chance of survival: an experimental stem cell transplant.

"I just kind of decided I was going to believe everything was going to work out at that point because I wanted Quentin to be saved. I wanted Quentin to still be with us," she said.

Against all odds, baby sister Jory was a perfect match. That allowed Quentin to have what may be the first-ever human transplant of placenta-derived stem cells, which have a powerful anti-leukemic effect.

"Once the stem cells start growing and producing, it will make him have normal cells, and hopefully, get rid of his leukemic cells," Lolie Yu, MD Professor of Pediatrics LSU Health Sciences Ctr., said.

Thanks to his baby sister, Quentin's cancer-free.

"I'm glad she saved my life," Quentin said. "He's completely healthy now. It's like he's never been sick," his mother said.

Now, with a healthy future ahead of him, Quentin's his old self again.

The clinical trial with human placenta derived stem cells is ongoing as a collaborative effort between LSU and Celgene Cellular Therapeutics -- the company that collects and processes the stem cells. Though the transplant procedure is still considered experimental, researchers are encouraged by the results so far.