Cord blood program at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center helps save cancer patients

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) – July is Cord Blood Donation Awareness Month and Brookwood Baptist Medical Center is spreading the message about this service that can save the lives of cancer patients.

Cord blood donation is the process of removing the blood from an umbilical cord after the delivery of a full-term baby. That blood can be donated to use to treat cancer patients that are getting a bone marrow transplant. Doctor Ashley Tamucci is an OB/GYN at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center and says cord blood donation is an easier and better option in most cases.

“If you take blood from a person who’s been living in the world for a period of time, that person has been exposed to certain antigens and will create certain antibodies. Those antibodies can then be rejected in the donor,” said Tamucci. “So the cord blood is naive, it’s never been exposed to the outside world so it hasn’t had a chance to develop antigens. So it actually is a better product.”

Tamucci says umbilical cord blood has up to 10 times more stem cells than adult bone marrow and UCB transplants are easier to administer. The blood can be extracted from the umbilical cord within one-minute with no discomfort to the mother or child.

Tamucci says Brookwood Baptist Medical Center has been offering the service for 5 years after being made aware of it from an expecting mother and nurse.

“I actually had a patient who was a hemoc (hematology-oncology) nurse at Children’s Hospital. There’s a lot of leukemia, lymphoma in the pediatric population and it just made her sad that kids died waiting for transplants because they couldn’t find a donor. So she asked me over 10 years ago could [she] donate [her] cord blood. To be perfectly honest, at that time I didn’t know that was even possible. She and I did a little research and we found a company that would actually allow her to collect her cord blood at her delivery send it to them so she could donate it. But it was a lot of research to find the one company that would do it. Ironically she delivered on a weekend, so we did collect her cord blood but the couriers that normally takes the blood do not work on weekends. So we ended up not being able to use it and it was very disappointing. So that’s when I sort of said why don’t we do this. Why don’t we just offer this to everybody and you don’t have to ask for it, it’s so easy to do. And that’s sort of where the idea generated from and ended up putting a program in place here.”

Ashley Tamucci

Medical staff informs patients about the option to donate their cord blood for free. Patients can also choose to have the cord blood stored in a lab for future use for their family, but that service is not free.

According to Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, the donation program has led to four life-saving transplants. To learn more about the program and research, click here.

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