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article imageDoctors develop technique to help reduce chemotherapy in children

By Gemma Fox     Sep 2, 2009 in Health
Doctors in the UK have developed a new technique that prevents bone marrow rejection in children who require transplants and as a result, reduces the need and therefore the side effects of intensive chemotherapy.
The technique, developed at Great Ormond Street Hospital [(GOSH) and UCL Institute of Child Health, both central London, uses antibodies which detect and kill the patients own bone marrow and creates the space for the donor cells. It also lessens the risk of rejection of the new marrow and also reduces the need for intensive chemotherapy.
The new technique has already been used in children with Primary Immunodeficiencies (PID), or more simply put, genetic defects of their immune system. This means normally they are too sick to undergo a regular bone marrow transplant. The new technique most likely saved their lives.
The results were described as "remarkable" by a GOSH consultant in bone marrow transplant, Dr Persis Amrolia, who also went on to say: "What's really encouraging is that pretty much all the children who survived now have a really good quality of life."
Children with PID who don't receive a bone marrow transplant very often die from infection or other complications, although fifty children each year who do suffer PID do receive transplants.
Prior to a bone marrow transplant children have previously had to receive high doses of chemotherapy to remove their defective bone marrow and make way for the new cells in the transplant operation.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss and sickness as well as damaging the liver, gut and lungs. It can also lead to growth problems and infertility in later life.
BBC News has detailed the experiences of three of the survivors of this new technique.
More about Bone marrow, Great ormond street, Transplant
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