Online Education Kit: One for the Other

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


One for the Other

Vignette:

Anna and Carlos' first child Vincent suffers from a rare form of cancer. Doctors explain to Anna and Carlos that chemotherapy could potentially cure Vincent's type of cancer, but there is no guarantee this mode of treatment would work in his particular case. Another option is a bone marrow transplant, which involves killing Vincent's cells that do not work correctly and replacing them with healthy cells from someone else. If successful, the bone marrow transplant could cure Vincent of the cancer. However, for this treatment to work, the donor's tissue type would have to be a very close match to Vincent's, which is very rare.

Anna and Carlos desperately want Vincent to have a bone marrow transplant, but neither of their tissue types are close enough to Vincent's to work. The doctor tells them they could have a second child, and, if this child's cells match Vincent's, the new baby could donate cells from its umbilical cord blood to complete a bone marrow transplant.

Anna and Carlos decide to go ahead and have a second child, whom they name Thomas. At the time of Thomas' birth, doctors collect the blood from his umbilical cord for possible use in Vincent's bone marrow transplant. The parents are overjoyed to learn that the baby's tissue is indeed a good match for Vincent's, but doctors caution that this treatment, while more successful than chemotherapy, still does not guarantee a cure. They caution that Vincent may need further tissue donations from Thomas later in life that require more invasive procedures, such as removal of bone marrow or organ donations, such as a kidney transplant.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think of Carlos and Anna's decision to have a second child to try and help Vincent?

  2. What would you think if Vincent needs a second bone marrow donation when Thomas is 8, and Thomas decides he doesn't want to participate because he is afraid of the needles involved?

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Last Updated: April 2, 2012