Over five million Nigerians suffer from Sickle Cell Anaemia, a severe hereditary form of anaemia in which a mutated form of hemoglobin distorts the red blood cells into a crescent shape at low oxygen levels.
Professor of Medicine, Victor Gordeuk, who is the Director, Sickle Cell Centre, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA and his colleagues, Prof. Damiano Rondelli and Prof. Bamidele Tayo, University of Loyola, Chicago claim the cure is bone marrow transplant.
The experts accompanied by the Chief Medical Director, UCH, Prof. Temitope Alonge, Dr. Titilola Akingbola, a haematologist and Dr. Foluke Fasola explained that the stem cell transplant is a standard procedure for the treatment of many blood cancers in both adult and children.
He said “With this chemotherapy-free transplant, we are curing adults with sickle cell disease, and we see that their quality of life improves fast within just one month of the transplant.
“About 90 per cent of the approximately 450 patients who have received stem cell transplants for sickle cell disease have been children. Chemotherapy has been considered too risky for adult patients, who are often more weakened than children by the disease.
“Adults with sickle cell disease can now be cured without chemotherapy — the main barrier that has stood in the way for them for so long. Our data provide more support that this therapy is safe and effective and prevents patients from living shortened lives, condemned to pain and progressive complications.”
“In the new procedure, patients receive immuno-suppressive drugs just before the transplant, along with a very low dose of total body irradiation, a treatment much less harsh and with fewer potentially serious side effects than chemotherapy.
“ Donor cells from a healthy and tissue-matched sibling are transfused into the patient. Stem cells from the donor produce healthy new blood cells in the patient, eventually in sufficient quantity to eliminate symptoms. In many cases, sickle cells can no longer be detected. Patients must continue to take immunosuppressant drugs for at least a year.”