Daniela Lakosilova still remembers what John Cunningham, MD, promised her the first time they met.
"If you need a stem cell transplant, we'll find you a donor," she recalled the pediatric hematologist/oncologist saying to her in his clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.
Now a college freshman, Daniela was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2007 when she was 12 years old. She underwent the standard frontline treatment for the disease -- chemotherapy and radiation treatment over two years -- at another hospital. While this therapy is successful for most children with ALL, a small percentage of patients relapse and require additional therapy. For Daniela, the leukemia recurred in 2012 during her junior year of high school.
Her doctors gave her a choice. The teenager could undergo more chemotherapy or consider having a stem cell transplant -- a process that replaces damaged or diseased blood stem cells with healthy stem cells from a donor. She opted for transplant and her physicians used the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry to look for a donor.