Published on June 19, 2012 at 4:10 AM
About 25 adults have received a similar chemotherapy-free stem cell transplant for sickle cell disease in recent years at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Approximately 85 percent have been cured.
"Sickle cell disease is devastating -- both emotionally and physically," said Dr. Dennis Levinson, a private rheumatologist in Chicago and clinical associate professor of medicine at UIC, who has taken care of Thomas for the past 16 years. "I've been terribly frustrated with Ieshea's disease over the years, and I've cared for many other sickle cell patients who have died."
Levinson says the stem cell transplant provides new hope for patients who often live day-to-day on painkillers and who are often misunderstood by clinicians. As the former chief of medicine at the now closed Michael Reese Hospital, he said he has cared for many patients with sickle cell anemia and was determined to seek out the best treatment option for Thomas.
Sickle cell disease primarily affects people of African descent. It is an inherited defect of the red blood cells that causes them to be shaped like a crescent, or sickle. These abnormal cells deliver less oxygen to the body's tissues and can result in severe pain, stroke and organ damage.
Approximately one in every 500 African Americans born in the U.S. has sickle cell disease. The disease affects 80,000 Americans of different ethnic backgrounds.
Source University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System