city anchor: PGI doctors perform path-breaking stem cell surgery, provide hope for cancer-afflicted children

A team of doctors, from PGI's Advanced Paediatrics Centre, successfully performed a stem cell transplant on a three-year-old boy suffering from Neuroblastoma, a development, that will now provide a ray of hope for children suffering from this rare form of cancer.

Even though it is an established method of treatment in western countries, it is for the first time in PGI that such a transplant has been performed on a child. The procedure was conducted by a team led by Dr Deepak Bansal, Additional Professor in the Paediatric Haematology-Oncology unit, headed by Prof R K Marwaha.

The boy had a tumour in his belly, just above the right kidney. On further tests, the cancer was found to have spread to his bones and the bone marrow.

The child was given several cycles of chemotherapy over three months. Following this, his own stem cells were collected and he was treated with high dose of chemotherapy to wipe out the cancer.

According to the PGI doctors who performed the feat, the challenges of a stem cell transplant in a young child include difficult collection of stem cells, risk of serious infections and the need for meticulous nursing care.

Doctors, however, said the child was very brave and with the untiring efforts of his parents and family, he endured the challenge of chemotherapy and the transplant with courage. Doctors attending to him said that medicines, that are required to kill cancer cells, are often too toxic to be tolerated by the body.

This is where the stem cells help. They have the capacity to grow and re-populate the destroyed bone marrow and this form of treatment improves the chances to cure some cancers, which otherwise are difficult to cure with traditional treatment, doctors add.

Several indigenous and simple methods were incorporated to reduce the risk of infections and keep the cost of the procedure low. The transfusion medicine team was led by Prof N Marwaha and Dr R R Sharma.

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