Aging is just a natural process that happens to all of us. It is quite natural that at old age, people may experience health issues and conditions that require treatment to continue with life without major challenges in managing day to day life.
Now, some of these conditions may not be treatable by conventional medication or surgical procedures. With advancements in stem cell science, stem cell treatments could come in very useful in treating certain medical conditions that could not be treated by other medical procedures.
Now can people of older age be susceptible to stem cell treatment?. The answer is yes.
A research study presented at Salt Lake City at BMT Tandem meetings in 2013 and papers published by Journal of Clinical Oncology reveal that stem cell transplants for elderly patients with blood cancers are safe and effective. The studies also gave a revised perspective to the healthcare care fraternity, that elderly patients, who were treated with stem cells not only showed a better outcome but also did not encounter an increase of post-transplant complications such as graft-versus-host disease, relative to age. In terms of relapse and recovery rate, there was much scope for improvement for elders diagnosed with acute Leukemia and MDS using stem cell transplants over conventional therapies.
There existed a predominant view in the earlier times about the safety of treating elders diagnosed with blood-related cancers through stem cell transplants. Thus, blood cancer patients, who were older than 70+ years were formerly not offered stem cell transplants, because of their age and the fear of post-transplant prognosis.
After the claims of the above-said research that scrutinized around 56 patients, who were older than 70 years, diagnosed with acute Leukemia or Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), stem cell transplants are being currently administered to such patients. These patients were subjected to a low dose of chemotherapy and radiation to get rid of the cancerous blood cells and then infused with peripheral blood stem cells from a matched unrelated donor.
A review of these patients post treatment showed that normal blood cell count was achieved in these patients within a span of 13 days. The incidence of common transplant complication known as graft versus host disease was also grossly reduced to 37%. The remission (cancer-free) survival chance after a year of transplant was around 42% and the overall survival rate was also estimated to be 55%, which was fairly exceptional.
Since the stem transplant caused a positive outcome in the elderly affected with blood-related cancers, the study concluded that it was safe and effective to use stem cells for the treatment of cancers in patients over 70 years.
The feasibility of stem cell transplants and relatively good outcomes of patients over the age of 70 for a variety of blood cancers comes as a welcoming news for the medical professionals. This not only widens the scope of utilisation of stem cells but more importantly brings a positive hope for the elderly.