New trial successfully blocks EPO signalling to improve cord-blood transplant process


A scientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, US, has discovered the importance of a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) for umbilical cord blood transplants as therapy for leukaemia and lymphoma patients.

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells for transplantation for patients who do not have a matched donor.

University of Rochester Medical Center Wilmot Cancer Institute associate professor of Hematology / Oncology Omar Aljitawi conducted a small clinical trial to prove the importance of EPO.

Aljitawi said that these results are important for under-represented minorities.

The aim of this research was to understand the cellular signals that regulate blood cell homing to improve cord-blood engraftment.

This led Aljitawi to block the EPO-EPO receptor signalling to improve the transplant process.

"The aim of this research was to understand the cellular signals that regulate blood cell homing to improve cord-blood engraftment."

In the homing process, newly transplanted blood stem cells migrate properly to the bone marrow of the patient and start restoring the body’s ability to make healthy blood and immune cells.

As part of a clinical trial that involved 15 patients, researchers delivered hyperbaric oxygen therapy first to cancer patients before the cord-blood transplant and blocked EPO signalling.

During this therapy, a patient entered a specialised chamber to breathe 100% oxygen.

Based on the study, it was found that this method was safe and well-tolerated by patients, and also lowered EPO levels.

The clinical trial volunteers also recovered their blood counts earlier and became free from blood transfusions sooner in their course of recovery, compared to other patients who did not receive oxygen therapy.

Aljitawi is further developing a Phase II study in Rochester to explore the use of hyperbaric oxygen in umbilical cord blood transplantation.