Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant Saves Leukemia Patient

MAYWOOD, IL – The recovery of Jesus Torres, a patient at Loyola Medicine with acute myeloid leukemia, highlights the importance of access to innovative, experimental treatments for blood cancers for all communities. As a world-class research institute, Loyola Medicine provides unique, life-saving therapies through its participation in clinical trials, such as a phase 3 clinical trial that uses umbilical cord blood transplantation to treat patients with acute myeloid leukemia. Through his enrollment in the clinical trial, Torres was able to receive a treatment that is currently offered at only a few sites in the United States as it awaits final approval from the FDA. Loyola’s research and partnership with a clinical trial sponsor, which develops revolutionary cell therapies, allowed Torres to receive the transplant.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a high-risk type of leukemia that nearly always recurs following standard therapies, according to Patrick Hagen, MD, associate director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center Research Office and assistant professor at the Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. After narrowing down Torres’ diagnosis, Dr. Hagen knew that his patient needed an aggressive treatment regimen that included stem cell transplant. Without a transplant, “the leukemia would have eventually taken his life, without doubt,” said Dr. Hagen. Thanks to Loyola’s participation in the clinical trial, Torres was enrolled in the study and able to receive an expanded stem cell transplant. In Torres’s case, “we used umbilical cord as our donor source because we can get away with less matching” than in adult donor pools.  

Because umbilical cord blood provides a limited amount of cells, following donation the blood was sent to the clinical trial sponsor’s laboratories, which use a technology that allows the cells to grow. “It allows those stem cells to divide but not differentiate, meaning more stem cells,” said Dr. Hagen. “Jesus then has more cells, which leads to a better, less complicated transplant course.”

In adult donor pools, Hispanic patients can have as low as 20% chance of finding a matched donor. Therefore, by increasing the number of donor options, umbilical cord blood transplants can help improve health equity among minority patients.

This is just one of the ways that the researchers and physicians at Loyola are working to advance health equity within their patient communities. Although they make up more than 19% of the population, Hispanic individuals represent only 6% of clinical trial participants. “Advancing health equity in the transplant community is of huge importance, to the point where we are now actually putting ethnic racial enrollment criteria on clinical trials,” said Dr. Hagen. “That’s the only way we can advance and equalize the playing field.”

The clinical trial is now in an “expanded access program,” which means it has been approved by the FDA but only within the context of a clinical trial. Hopefully, within the next year, it will be fully FDA approved, opening the door for other patients like Torres to receive this life-saving therapy. “It is crucial that every patient has access to life-saving care,” said William Small, Jr., MD, chair of radiation oncology and director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. “Here at Loyola, we are proud to participate in clinical trials that can help eliminate systemic inequities.”

Following the transplant, Torres had a relatively uncomplicated course, and three months after his transplant, his bone marrow had no signs of leukemia. “After that, he was pretty much back to where he was before he was diagnosed, not 100%, but probably a 90%,” said Dr. Hagen. Torres has been inspired to pursue a new career as an Emergency Medical Technician. “I’m in a constant state of appreciation for everybody and Loyola and especially everybody who’s digging deeper for information to help others,” says Torres. “Because at the end of the day, you know, it takes one to help another.”  

Jesus also appreciates the parent who donated their baby’s umbilical cord blood to a public cord blood bank. Dr Hagen advises parents, “if you are at a hospital that allows cord blood donation, I would highly encourage it because that donation could potentially save someone’s life.”

For more information on the clinical trial and Jesus’s recovery, check out this video: Clinical Trial Saves Leukemia Patient – YouTube

Additional b-roll is available at:

To learn more about Loyola Medicine clinical trials click here: Research & Clinical Trials | Loyola Medicine


About Loyola Medicine

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a nationally ranked academic, quaternary care system based in Chicago’s western suburbs. The three-hospital system includes Loyola University Medical Center, Gottlieb Memorial HospitalMacNeal Hospital, as well as convenient locations offering primary care, specialty care and immediate care services from more than 1,500 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois’s largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch Scool of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Established in 1961, Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with the Judd A. Weinberg Emergency Department, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research Facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center. MacNeal is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced medical, surgical and psychiatric services, acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics.

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About Trinity Health

Trinity Health is one of the largest not-for-profit, Catholic health care systems in the nation. It is a family of 115,000 colleagues and nearly 26,000 physicians and clinicians caring for diverse communities across 25 states. Nationally recognized for care and experience, the Trinity Health system includes 88 hospitals, 131 continuing care locations, the second largest PACE program in the country, 125 urgent care locations and many other health and well-being services. Based in Livonia, Michigan, its annual operating revenue is $20.2 billion with $1.2 billion returned to its communities in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs.

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