A woman in Edmonton, Canada, has been treated of her sickle-cell disease after undergoing a stem cell transplant last year. She is the first adult in Canada to be cured of the condition using this procedure.
Revée Agyepong received donor stem cells from her sister in an operation in Calgary last year. Sickle-cell disease causes red blood cells to become deformed so that they clog small blood vessels. This, in turn, leads to organ failure and bone deterioration, CTV News Calgary reports.
The 26-year-old said, “People with sickle-cell disease will often survive into their 40s or 50s.” While stem cell transplants have been done on kids with sickle-cell disease, doctors have expressed concerns that the same procedure would produce complications in adult patients.
Agyepong and her sister, Stephanie Amoah, pushed for a transplant. The sisters were confirmed to be a perfect match, and since Amoah had no diseases, doctors agreed to do the transplant. Agyepong said,
I was just excited to know we would get the HLA testing which is the compatibility testing. We hoped for the best, crossed our fingers, and then, on her birthday – which is crazy, we got the best news ever; that she was a ten-out-of-ten match.
In November 2017, Agyepong underwent the complicated and risky stem cell transplant at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre under the direction of Dr. Andrew Daly, the head of Alberta’s bone marrow transplant program.
Daly said, “When Revée approached us, we had coincidentally been thinking about adult stem cell transplant for sickle-cell disease based on the remarkably good outcomes that Alberta Children’s Hospital has been seeing with transplants in the pediatric population. She met all the necessary criteria in terms of being able to tolerate a transplant but, most important, she had a sibling who was a 100 per cent match.”
The transplant was successful, but there were concerns that Agyepong’s immune system would be compromised. On Tuesday, blood tests confirmed that she was free of sickle-cell disease. “Over the past few months, what we’ve seen is that Revée’s sister’s bone marrow has taken over the production of Revée’s red blood cells,” Daly said. “The amount of sickle-cell hemoglobin in her bloodstream has decreased almost to zero.”
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Agyepong. “I’m not feeling as much pain. I’m not exhausted. So I’m excited for that.”