Fresh blood increases survival odds in cancer

December 31st, 2008 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 31 (IANS) Fresh blood, rather than blood stored in a bank for a long time, can help the body fight cancer better, according to the latest research.Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers, led by Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu from its department of neuroimmunology research unit, discovered that a transfusion of “young” blood - blood which has been stored for less than nine days - increased the odds of survival in animals challenged with two types of cancer.

“There is anecdotal evidence pointing to the fact that some surgeons really prefer to use younger blood units. Our research shows their reasoning might be sound,” said Ben-Eliyahu, explaining that the oldest blood in a blood bank usually sits on the shelf anywhere from 40 to 42 days before it expires.

Using an animal model, the researchers conducted tests on rats with leukaemia and breast cancer. The odds of surviving the cancer, they found, were only compromised if the transfusion blood had been stored for nine days or more.

“I don’t think this study will or should change the practices of surgeons in hospitals, but it is definitely something that needs to be investigated further in human clinical studies,” said Ben-Eliyahu.

“It might have a serious impact on the survival of prostate or colon cancers - two cancers that are associated with a lot of bleeding. If our research proves to be true in human trials, it should revolutionise the way we look at transfusion in cancer patients.”

The study, Ben-Eliyahu points out, also led to one other interesting finding. Surgeons commonly transfuse blood from which white blood cells have been removed, believing that these cells can cause harmful effects in the recipient, said a TAU release.

“However, we found that it was the red blood cells, not the white blood cells, which caused the negative effects,” he said. Because red blood cells carry oxygen to the body, transfusions cannot be withheld, but using fresher blood might be better for cancer patients, the professor maintains.

These findings were reported in Anesthesiology.

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