Blood stem cells from 56 pediatric cancer patients stored in a long-term freezer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital for use in possible future treatments were destroyed when temperature sensors failed earlier this month.
The hospital also admitted that they had
In a statement Wednesday, the hospital indicated that the cells were harvested for routine reasons and that none of the patients' health was at risk. as a result of material loss.
Stem cells are very young cells that can develop in other types of cells. In particular, blood stem cells develop into different types of blood cells.
But why are these cells frozen and stored for certain cancer patients?
Blood stem cells from pediatric cancer patients are most often collected when patients are treated for some types of cancer called solid tumors, said Dr. Ludovic Guarini, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Maimonides Children's Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Guarini is not associated with a children's hospital in Los Angeles.
Solid tumors are any mass-forming tumors, such as cancer of the brain or liver, against fluid tumors, such as those of the blood or lymphatic system.
Stem cell preservation allows doctors to give higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation that can be toxic to blood cells, Guarini told NBC News. After treatment, re-injection of stem cells allows patients to replenish the blood cells that have been deleted. Blood stem cells can also sometimes be used to replace damaged bone marrow.
Obtaining stem cells can be difficult. The cells are either taken from the bone marrow, which often requires anesthesia, or if taken directly from the blood, the bone marrow must be stimulated to release the stem cells into circulation.
Therefore, some stem cells are often left aside and stored for possible future use should the patient's cancer return.
"Whether the lost stem cells are replaceable depends on the circumstances," Guarini said. Some patients may just have to repeat the collection
The Los Angeles Children's Hospital said in a statement that the freezer has been replaced and that maintenance schedules and sensor monitoring systems have been upgraded.
They are also reviewing the notification process to avoid sending information such as this directly to pediatric patients in the future.
The hospital stated that it would provide support to the amylas affected if additional care was needed in the future.
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