Cord Blood Registry (CBR) has announced the launch of a national marketing campaign designed to educate expectant parents about the value of preserving the stem cells contained in a newborn’s umbilical cord blood.
The campaign highlights stories of children who have overcome life-threatening diseases with the help of their own cord blood stem cells or those of a sibling.
“The goal of this campaign is to help expectant parents better understand the significance of banking cord blood stem cells by introducing them to families who already do,” said Stephen Grant, executive vice president and co-founder, Cord Blood Registry.
“We hope this campaign captures the attention of every expectant parent and motivates them to learn more about the one opportunity they have to save the precious medical resource that their newborn will bring into the world with them,” Grant added.
A study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine shows that more than a third of all expectant parents are unaware of the option to preserve cord blood stem cells. Of the remaining two-thirds who have some knowledge, 74 percent describe themselves as “minimally informed.”
“The results of this study clearly indicate that patients need more information,” said Dr. Jordan Perlow, M.D., a maternal-fetal specialist in Phoenix and lead author of the study. “Few patients today receive umbilical cord blood education from health care providers and I have no doubt that without education on this topic, opportunities to save lives will be lost.”
“The lack of understanding about cord blood banking is a public health tragedy,” said Grant. “In nine out of 10 births in this country today, the cord blood is disposed of as medical waste. Because the medical benefits of cord blood stem cells are proven, we have a responsibility to help change this statistic.”
According to the National Marrow Donor Program, the number of transplants using cord blood as a source of stem cells will surpass those using bone marrow later this year to treat serious diseases such as leukemia and aplastic anemia. Collecting cord blood takes only a few minutes, poses no risk to the baby or mother, and is painless.
“My husband and I banked our daughter’s cord blood because we wanted to ensure our children had every health option available to them throughout their lives. We hoped we would never need to use it, but we did,” said Melissa Tighe, mother of Annie Tighe who is featured in the marketing campaign.
She continued, “We never anticipated that our daughter would be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, but she was and her cord blood stem cells helped save her life.”
Each year in the U.S., more than 15,000 people need a stem cell transplant but are unable to find a suitable donor match. In an effort to increase the number of cord blood stem cells available for therapeutic use, the campaign encourages expectant parents who choose not to preserve their newborn’s cord blood stem cells for their family’s future use to donate them to a public bank.
Prior to the birth of a baby, parents can choose to preserve cord blood stem cells with a family bank or potentially donate them to a public bank. Family banks offer expectant parents the chance to store their children’s genetically-unique stem cells for their own use or use by a family member.
Scientific evidence shows that cord blood stem cell transplants from genetically-related family members result in better transplant outcomes and superior long-term survival compared with cord blood stem cells from an unrelated donor. For the thousands of patients currently searching for a stem cell donor, publicly donated stem cells are made available for any transplant recipient who may be a match.
"No one should make an important health decision based solely on a marketing campaign,” said Dr. Eugene Scioscia, Jr., chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Allegheny General in Pittsburgh. “However, if this campaign encourages one patient to ask me about cord blood banking, it was worth every dollar spent.”