Father’s stem cells give a new lease of life to an 8-year-old

Dhiraj Kumar was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2015, but cancer had relapsed in 2016. Left with only option of bone marrow transplant, doctors could save Kumar's life after his father donated the stem cells

Dhiraj Kumar (name changed), an eight-year-old boy from Thane suffering from acute leukaemia, has got a new lease of life after he underwent a successful Haplo (half-matched) Identical Stem Cells Transplant at Parel’s Global Hospital. Kumar’s father was the donor.

This is the first stem cell transplantation carried out by Global Hospital.

When Kumar was just six years old, he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia, a type of progressive disease in which bone marrow and other blood-forming organs produce immature or abnormal white blood cells.

Kumar’s father says, “He was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2015. Since then, he is undergoing the treatment, but in October 2016, doctors had observed that the cancer had relapsed.”

Dr Niranjan Rathod, Head of Department, Haematology and BMT, Global Hospitals, said, “The transplant procedure was quite risky, because there are chances of graft failure. However, transplantation this is the best option for the patients suffering from acute leukaemia. Due to relapse of acute leukaemia, he was running out of time and had to undergo transplantation as early as possible. In this scenario, Haplo (half matched) transplant was the only option left.”

In Haplo (half-matched) transplant, half-matched stem cells are used for transplantation.

“Haplo donors can be parents, children, siblings, and cousins. A biological parent or a biological child is always half-match to the patient based on genetics. In Kumar’s case, his father donated stem cells to him,” Rathod added.

Doctors had given very high dose of chemotherapy to Kumar, so that they can destroy the cancer cells in his bone marrow. Before stem cells could be removed, doctors had given his father few injections. Then doctors removed the stem cells by doing apheresis (filtering) procedure.

Stem cells, which were donated by his father, were later infused in Kumar’s body. He was provided extensive support with blood transfusions, nutrients along with pain killers to keep his pain under control.

“Lot of patients who require bone marrow (stem cells) transplant usually do not have a complete human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matched donor, as there are only 25% of chances that one finds a sibling matched donor. If the donor is not related to the patient, transplant procedure is only prohibitively expensive, and takes long time, which acute leukaemia patients don’t have,” said Rathod.

Twelve days after infusing stem cells, Kumar’s body has generated new cells, and he is recovering now.

Kumar was discharged on March 3 from Global Hospital.

“I am hopeful that my son will recover completely, so that he can fulfil his dream,” said his father.