Doctors Use 2-Year-Old Boy's Own Stem Cells to Treat Rare Cancer

Doctors are hoping the umbilical cord blood banked by a toddler's parents at the time of his birth will save the 2-year-old from a rare and often fatal cancer.

Caden Ledbetter of Dallas is suffering from neuroblastoma, a rare but deadly cancer that attacks the nervous system.

Last month, doctors at Medical City Dallas Hospital took stem cells taken from Caden's umbilical cord and pumped them back into his body as a last ditch effort to save the boy's life, according to a report in the Monterey Herald.

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Doctors are hoping the healthy stem cells will replace the ones that have been damaged by the cancer, which has spread to his bones, liver and bone marrow.

Treatment with stem cells is still experimental and has been rarely used on someone suffering from neuroblastoma. "It's either the second or third time it's ever been done in the world," said Joel Weinthal, Caden's doctor.

Although Caden's parents, John and Lexie Ledbetter, are hoping for a miracle, experts are divided as to whether a stem cell transplant will save the boy's life.

Dr. William Shearer, a pediatrics and immunology professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Monterey Herald that most cancers are better treated with stem cells from a donor who isn't likely to develop the disease and says he discourages parents from banking umbilical cord blood, which can cost upwards of $2,000.

"The most useful thing to do is to make your baby's placental stem cells available to the general public because somebody somewhere in the world will need them desperately," he said.