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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW march 2005
Cord Blood Makes the Cut
» 5,000 to 6,000 patients have received transplants of stem cell–rich blood harvested from
newborn babies’ umbilical cords.
» An estimated 2,000 cord-blood transplants took place in 2004 alone, with 600 in the
United States and 800 in Japan.
» About two-thirds of cord-blood transplants treat patients with leukemia. One-quarter
treat patients suffering from genetic diseases.
» In the United States, more than 40,000 mothers have donated blood from their newborns’
umbilical cords to the National Marrow Donor Program’s cord-blood banks. Another 27,000
have donated to the New York Blood Center’s National Cord Blood Program.
» Congress appropriated a total of $20 million for 2004 and 2005 to subsidize collection
and research on cord blood with the aim of creating a bank of 150,000 donors , enough to
provide a match for 80 to 90 percent of Americans.
» The United States has some 20 private cord-blood banks , which typically charge $1,000
to $1,500 to collect the blood and approximately $100 per year to store it for the exclusive
use of the family.
» One such private facility, Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, CA, reports that it has collected
cord-blood samples from some 80,000 clients.
» In its position paper recommending against commercial cord-blood banking, the American
Academy of Pediatrics cites estimates of the chance of a child ever needing to use his stored
cord blood that range between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 200,000.
SOURCES: NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, NATIONAL MARROW DONOR PROGRAM, NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER, CORD BLOOD REGISTRY,
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS
New Drugs Work
Health economists long thought that
advances in medicine have modest effects
on life expectancy. But a study of longevity
in 52 countries found that new drugs (not
including reformulations of drugs already
on the market) accounted for 40 percent
of the almost two-year increase in average
life expectancy between 1986 and 2000.
Though circulatory diseases accounted for
half of disease-related deaths, drugs
targeting the cardiovascular system made
up only 14 percent of new drug launches.
SOURCE: NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
Cumulative life expectancy
increase since 1986 (in years)
Types of new drugs launched, 1982-2001
Causes of disease-related death,
If each one of us is biologically unique,
why are our ailments so often treated
with one-size-ﬁts-all drug regimens?
Optimata, an Israeli company based in
Ramat Gan, aims to help doctors
customize cancer treatments by building
a software “clone” of each patient. The
company’s system starts with a
mathematical model that incorporates
several hundred equations representing
different bodily processes. Doctors then
plug in data speciﬁc to the patient and
his or her disease—the growth rates of
the tumor and blood vessels, for
example. The software allows the doctor to try out in the digital realm various combinations of
drugs and dosing schedules in order to ﬁnd the treatment regimen that will do the best job of
ﬁghting the cancer with the fewest side effects. Researchers are currently testing the system on
breast cancer patients at the UK’s Nottingham City Hospital. If those trials are successful,
Optimata could begin marketing the software as a workstation tool for physicians by 2007. The
company is also developing digital treatment-optimization tools for diseases other than cancer.
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