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Stem cell Treatment for 8-yr-old Cancer Patient

The Times of India
18 March 2009
Kolkata, India

For the first time in eastern India, stem cell therapy will be used to treat a cancer patient. Doctors at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute (NSCBCRI) are hopeful that the unique line of treatment will completely cure eight–year–old Pramita Aich’s cancer of the adrenal gland in the abdomen.

Pramita was detected with cancer last October. She was taken to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai for chemotherapy. There too, doctors suggested autologous stem cell transplant but unable to afford the expenses, her parents brought her back.

“We were told that the cost of the transplant could be anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh. Here at NSCBCRI, we have been told that the cost would be just about Rs 6 lakh,” said Pramita’s father Prantik, a smalltime businessman.

“Cancer patients have been successfully treated with stem cells at the Tata Memorial Hospital but never in eastern India. Though it is a complicated procedure, it is very effective,” said Ashish Mukherjee, director of the NSCBCRI.

Pramita was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday. Doctors collected cells from her bone marrow and released her. They will use these cells to replace the cancerous cells through a long and laborious process. She will be re–admitted a fortnight later for the second phase of the treatment.

“She was given a dose of chemotherapy last week. It has destroyed the cancerous cells for the time being but a relapse is bound to occur. So, the only long–term treatment is stem cell infusion that will replace the cancerous cells,” said Mukherjee.

The stem cell infusion could begin on April 17 and it might take another two months to complete the treatment. “We will start with chemotherapy to kill the cancerous cells. Then, stem cells will be injected. After this, Pramita will be kept in a sanitized high–efficiency particulate hepa air–filter room where no bacteria or virus can enter. This should cure her, but we are keeping our fingers crossed,” he added.

Last year, an eight–year–old thalassaemic boy from Bangalore was cured with stem cell treatment at the NSCBCRI. In February, a thalassaemic woman was treated with stem cells collected from her new–born. She is still under treatment.

“My daughter was very fond of dancing. Now, it is even difficult for her to move. I hope she is cured and can dance and play as she used to,” said Pramita’s mother.

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