Introducing NMDP, formerly known as the National Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match. Our name has changed but our mission has not: We save lives through cell therapy. Learn More

Unlicensed cord blood transplants can help people of color

Umbilical cord blood is safe, effective treatment for many diseases

Age0-81 years old
Number of Participants2,456
Research GoalImprove Survival
The largest study of its kind found that unlicensed umbilical cord blood is safe and effective for umbilical cord blood transplant (UCBT). 

UCBT can cure leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease and other illnesses. Unfortunately, people of color may have difficulty finding a closely matched adult blood or marrow donor. Another option is umbilical cord blood, which has less restrictive match requirements. 

However, U.S. law requires that cord blood banks get licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Licensing is a long, costly process. Also, most cord blood that was collected and stored before 2011 does not meet licensing rules. As a result, only 1 in 10 cord blood units stored in the U.S. is licensed. Most cord blood is unlicensed. 

Researchers wanted to find out if unlicensed cord blood is safe and effective for treatment of many diseases. They checked the medical records of 2,500 people who got unlicensed cord blood transplants in the U.S. from 2011-2016. 

Researchers found that, on average, people who got unlicensed cord blood had good outcomes. 

The study included people with diverse ancestry. About one-third of the adults and half of the children in the study were people of color. They identified as: 
  • black or African American, 
  • Asian, 
  • Pacific Islander, 
  • American Indian or Alaska Native, 
  • multiple races, 
  • and/or Hispanic ethnicity. 

Unlicensed umbilical cord blood expands access to transplant to patients with diverse ancestry. 

Ask your doctor 

  • How can I find a donor for my BMT?
  • What are the risks and possible benefits of cord blood

Learn more about