Support HB 983/SB 584: Cord Blood Transpant Program

By Nancy Paltell, PhD, Associate Director for Respect Life

House Health & Government Operations Committee (Mar 15, 2011) and Senate Finance Committee (Mar 2, 2011)

This testimony in support of HB 983 is offered on behalf of the Catholic Bishops serving Maryland and their dioceses.

For several life-threatening diseases, the best hope for a cure lies with a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant. While bone marrow transplants are readily available, only three National Marrow Donor Program transplant centers in Maryland can do cord blood transplants. On a practical level, none of these centers makes cord blood transplants available to adult patients.

The following information was taken from the National Marrow Donor Program website, www.marrow.org:

  • Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland – From 2003 to 2007, no cord blood transplants and 23 bone marrow transplants were performed.
  • Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – From 2003 to 2007, 16 pediatric and no adult cord blood transplants were performed; 475 bone marrow transplants were performed.
  • National Institutes of Health – Transplants are only provided to patients enrolled in an active clinical trial.

Maryland should make cord blood transplants available because doing so will save lives. Finding a transplant match is easier with cord blood than bone marrow, because a donor cord blood unit can be a less-than-perfect match for the recipient and still result in a completely successful transplant. Since no Maryland hospital provides umbilical cord blood transplants for adults, patients with sickle cell disease, leukemia, or other diseases may not be aware of the availability of this treatment option, and for those who learn of the option on their own, they must travel to other states to obtain such treatments.

Another important reason to establish a cord blood transplant program in Maryland is to continue Maryland’s history of being a leader in breakthrough medical technology. Especially now that cord blood transplantation research is progressing so rapidly that cord blood transplantation is on the cusp of being widely applicable to more patients and for more diseases, Maryland should be leading the way, not trying to catch up.

Given the number of citizens whose lives would be saved, the annual savings to the Medicaid program that would result if more chronic diseases were cured, and the opportunity to establish Maryland as a center of excellence for cord blood transplants, Maryland should establish a program to provide state-funded grants to medical institutions to initiate and operate an umbilical cord blood transplant center. We urge a favorable report.