California

Stem cells of child cancer survivors lost in freezer failure at Los Angeles hospital

A California hospital has apologized for a freezer failure that destroyed stem cells harvested from 56 children who had fought cancer.

The loss poses no danger to the health of the children, and more stem cells can be harvested if needed, officials at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles wrote in a statement.

“These blood stem cells, all of which were collected from patients, were in long-term storage,” officials wrote.

“We routinely collect cells early in a child’s course of oncology therapy for possible future use,” the statement says. “When excess cells are not needed, they remain in storage in the unlikely event that they could become helpful in the future.”

The hospital blames failed freezer temperature sensors for the loss of the stem cells. The freezer has been replaced and new safeguards added, officials wrote.

“We are very sorry that this loss occurred,” the statement reads.

The hospital also apologized for mistakenly addressing letters about the lost stem cells to the children involved, rather than their parents.

“I got almost to the very bottom and I just started crying,” said former patient Sean Anderson Coronoa, 13, who has been cancer-free for nearly three years, KABC reported. He remembers the stem-cell extraction process, which can take up to two days.

“It was painful,” Sean said, according to the station. “I would try to sleep and my body would just start shaking, and then I just started to freak out and I’d start crying.”

Harvested stem cells can be reimplanted into patients to help replenish those lost to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, Newsweek reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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