A bill supported by City of Hope that would lay the foundation for the increased collection of umbilical cord blood in California cleared its final legislative hurdle on its way to the governor’s desk.
Authored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, AB 34 — the Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program — was approved Sept. 11 in the waning hours of the legislative session.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until Oct. 12 to sign the bill into law. If signed, the new law would implement a statewide cord blood program beginning in 2010.
Joseph Rosenthal, M.D., director of pediatric bone marrow transplantation at City of Hope, testified before the State Assembly and State Senate health committees to support the bill requiring California to harvest and store umbilical cord blood for public use.
“We stand to save more lives, especially in times of great need and for patients who have difficulty finding matching donors,” said Rosenthal.
Cord blood is the most widely used alternative to bone marrow for stem cell collection.
Portantino’s cord-blood push started in 1996 when a neighbor’s son with leukemia received a lifesaving transplant of cells through donated cord blood. But when Portantino and his wife tried to donate their daughter’s cord blood, they found it extremely difficult.
Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of City of Hope, praised the legislation. “Thanks to Assemblymember Anthony Portantino and the state legislature, California will help lead the nation in making umbilical cord blood widely available to patients facing life-threatening diseases.
“Umbilical cord blood plays an important role in the treatment of leukemia and other serious blood diseases. As one of the state’s largest potential users of umbilical cord blood, City of Hope can help expand the scope of treatment for the thousands of patients who are waiting for marrow or cord blood transplants, many of whom die as a result of being unable to find suitable matches.”