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Stem cells of dozens child cancer patients were accidentally destroyed at a Los Angeles hospital

Stem cells harvested from the blood of 56 Los Angeles-area child cancer patients before they underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments were lost when the hospital freezer where they were stored malfunctioned.

"These blood stem cells, all of which were collected from patients, were in long-term storage. We routinely collect cells early in a child's course of oncology therapy for possible future use. When excess cells are not needed, they remain in storage in the unlikely event that they could become helpful in the future," the hospital said. Cancer patients have lost at this time a second chance in case their cancer ever returned. More even, a letter breaking the news was accidentally addressed to some children and not their parents. The good news is that patients can always have the stem cells harvested again. The process involves injections and requires the child to be hooked up for a day or two to machines that separate the stem cells from the rest of the blood.

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Stem cells can develop into different cell types in the body, and can also serve as an internal repair system. Children's Hospital has set up a dedicated phone line to answer any questions affected parents may have concerning the stem cell loss. They can call 1-877-622-2130.

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