Cord Blood Donation

Last Modified: February 22, 2006


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My daughter's mother-in-law has multiple myeloma. My other daughter is 8 months pregnant. Is it a possibility that the cord blood can be used to treat this woman's cancer?


Vicki Sherry, MSN, CRNP, Advanced Practice Oncology Nurse, responds:

Since your daughter's baby and your other daughter's mother-in-law are not related by blood, the baby's cord blood would be considered an unrelated donor, even if they were a close "match". When other people's blood is used for a transplant (called "allogeneic"), the donor and patient have to be tested to see if their genes "match". This is called an "HLA match". There are six unique genes that are found on the surface of nearly every cell in the body, and at least five of the six genes need to match in order to have a good chance at a successful transplant.

When someone is considering an allogeneic transplant, his or her siblings and parents are tested first. You get 3 of the 6 genes from your mother and the other 3 from your father. Siblings (from the same 2 parents) have a 1-in-4 chance of being a "perfect" match (six out of six genes match), whereas parents have a 1% chance of being a perfect match.

When an unrelated donor is used, a database called the NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program) is used. The program has 5.5 million potential volunteer donors, and searches them to see if anyone matches the candidate. The NMDP also collects and stores unit of cord blood, which could be used for an allogeneic transplant.

Your daughter could register her baby's blood into the NMDP registry. The baby is most likely not going to be a match for your family member, but could potentially be a match for someone else. To find out about donating a baby's cord blood, visit the NMDP's page on cord blood donation.


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