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Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” recently shared the story of a fellow cancer survivor,¹ Kirsten Riemer. While both Robin and Kirsten can trace their successful treatments to a stem cell transplant, there’s a big difference in their stories.

After Robin was diagnosed with cancer, she received a life-saving transplant of bone marrow stem cells from her sister. Robin was fortunate that her sister was a close enough HLA match. HLA typing is performed before a stem cell transplant to determine if immune systems are compatible between the donor and the person receiving the transplant.

Kirsten wasn’t as lucky. Diagnosed with leukemia, the 34-year-old working mother also needed a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, no suitably matched donors could be identified to donate stem cells for a bone marrow transplant.

Newborn stem cells to the rescue

When Kirsten’s care team suggested using stem cells from cord blood, she was unfamiliar with the option.

Kirsten soon learned that cord blood – a rich source of stem cells – allows for more flexibility in HLA matching,² so recipients who may not be able to find a close enough match for bone marrow or peripheral blood donation may still be able to find a match for cord blood.

Six years after receiving a cord blood transplant using a sample from a public bank, Kirsten has made a full recovery. This life-changing experience has made her a strong advocate for increasing awareness of cord blood stem cells as an option for patients requiring a stem cell transplant.

Fortunately for Kirsten, she was able to find a cord blood donor, but privately banking your child’s newborn stem cells with a family bank like Cells for Life means immediate access should the stem cells be needed for treatments. Full siblings are the most likely individuals to utilize a cord blood sample for a stem cell transplant and have a 75% of being at least a partial HLA match.

Cord blood is creating new transplant opportunities

In the panel discussion following Kirsten’s GMA appearance, Dr. Gail Roboz, an oncologist and a director of the Clinical and Translational Leukemia Program at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, said, “Cord blood has allowed us not only to expand the donor pool, which is incredibly important, but it’s more than that. There might be some patients for whom cord blood transplants are actually better, safer, and more accessible.”

Preservation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Expecting a child? Have friends or family who are expecting? Enroll with us today or visit our Refer A Friend page to start referring. When someone you refer preserves with Cells for Life, you’ll get a cheque or storage credit  — and they’ll receive an exclusive discount when they enroll to store their baby’s stem cells*.


1. Roberts, Robin. “Woman saved by ‘cord blood’ transplant: How it’s helping more bone marrow transplant recipients.” Good Morning America, October 17, 2022, https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/wellness/story/woman-saved-cord-blood-transplant-helping-bone-marrow-91605160. 2. Kogler, G. (2020). Cord Blood Stem Cells. In: Brand-Saberi, B. (eds) Essential Current Concepts in Stem Cell Biology. Learning Materials in Biosciences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-33923-4_3

* Referral program applies only to existing Cells for Life clients (“Referring Clients”) referring new clients to Cells for Life (“Referred Clients”). Referring Clients must accept the terms of promotion and join Cells for Life before receiving client referral rewards. Referred Client must enroll using the referral link provided by Referring Client or mention Referring Client when enrolling over the phone. Discounts may not be combined with other offers. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

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