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Stem cell transplant for girl

Calcutta, April 24: An eight-year old girl, suffering from cancer in the abdomen, underwent a rare stem cell transplant at a city hospital to combat the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

Pramita Aich, a resident of Dum Dum, is suffering from neuroblastoma, and she underwent stem cell transplant from her own bone marrow.

Doctors said this was the first autologous bone marrow transplant for a paediatric cancer patient in the city. Autologous blood transfusion is the collection and re-infusion of a patient’s own blood or blood components.

Pramita’s cancer was detected in October 2008. Her father took her to Mumbai for treatment. “Doctors there said she needed a bone marrow transplant as the cancer was in an advanced stage,” said her father Prantik, a trader.

According to doctors, the bone marrow transplant would help recover the damaged bone marrow. “In paediatric cancers like neuroblastoma, very high doses of chemotherapy are required. This destroys the bone marrow completely and threatens the life of the child,” said Arpita Bhattacharyya, a city-based paediatric haematologist.

“The stem cells are harvested before the chemotherapy and re-infused to create new bone marrow. The chemotherapy kills the cancer cells,” she said. “Autologous bone marrow transplant is not carried out in Calcutta though it requires almost the same infrastructure as other stem cell transplants.”

Pramita was admitted to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute in Park Lane, where she underwent chemotherapy.

“The bone marrow was extracted from the pelvic bone, stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius for a month and infused intravenously,” said Ashish Mukherjee, the director of the institute, who headed a team of doctors for the transplantation. The team included Ritwik Pandey, Ujjal Roy and Pinaki Ranjan Gupta.

The transplant took place on April 19 and Pramita is now under observation in a high- efficiency particulate air filter room, a specialised unit free of bacteria, virus and fungi. She would undergo treatment for another three months before being released. The entire procedure cost about Rs 6 lakh.

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