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Cancer setback for Mandi Schwartz

Friday, 08.13.2010 / 8:55 PM / Hockey Fights Cancer

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Cancer setback for Mandi Schwartz
It appears the cancer that had been in remission for almost three months has resurfaced - for a third time - within the immune system of Mandi Schwartz, the sister of 2010 first-round draft choice Jaden Schwartz.

Schwartz, who was scheduled for a stem cell transplant on Aug. 27 at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance operated by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Center, University of Washington Medicine and Seattle Children's, must now undergo further chemotherapy in order to go back in remission so a date for the required stem-cell transplant can be finalized.

According to Sam Rubin of Yale Sports Publicity, the stem cell transplant that Schwartz needs to help win her battle against acute myeloid leukemia - a cancer that starts inside the bone marrow and grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells - will include a breakthrough procedure pioneered by one of her doctors at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Center.

The stem cells needed for transplants like Mandi's come from the bone marrow or peripheral blood of an adult donor or the blood left over in the umbilical cord after a baby is born. In order to limit the risk of complications, the stem cells must come from a donor who is a close genetic match to the patient.

The cancer needs to be in remission, however, in order for doctors to proceed with the transplant.

She was first diagnosed with the blood cancer that has been destroying her bone marrow in December 2008, just days after assisting the Yale women's hockey team to a 4-1 win over Brown.

The chemotherapy that 22-year-old Mandi underwent back home at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Pasqua Hospital in Regina put her in remission for a second time. She was then discharged from Pasqua Hospital on July 11 and made the trip to Seattle from her home in Saskatchewan by Recreational Vehicle.

They then met Dr. Colleen Delaney and their transplant team at Dr. Irwin Bernstein's Clinical Research Division lab. Dr. Delaney, an oncologist and researcher, has been conducting a unique clinical trial using cord blood for the last four years.

Delaney confirmed for Rubin that in 2002, researchers in the Bernstein Lab found a way to increase the amount of stem cells in cord blood by rapidly growing the cells on a protein called Delta, which activates a gene that keeps the cells from maturing into more specific cells. With the increased amount of stem cells involved in the transplant, engraftment is likely to happen more quickly.

As was reported on yalebulldogs.com, Schwartz' reaction to the news of her relapse was inspiring. She had to undergo a procedure on Wednesday that took almost five hours but she continued to keep the faith.

In preparation for her transplant, Mandi will have to undergo more chemotherapy and total-body radiation starting the week before the transplant. This part of the procedure is designed to ensure that all of the existing cancerous cells are eliminated and to further suppress Mandi's immune system to prevent her from immediately rejecting the new donor cells.

Mandi's brother, Jaden, was drafted 14th overall by the St. Louis Blues on June 25 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Schwartz, who will join his brother at Colorado College this fall, was the leading scorer in the United States Hockey League with the Tri-City Storm this past season, notching 83 points (33 goals) in 60 games. He became the youngest player to lead the league in scoring since 1982-83 and his output was the highest point total since Thomas Vanek in 2001-02.

Mandi began playing hockey when she was 6, and was captain of the women's team at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, before attending Yale University.

Complete recovery of Mandi's new immune system would take about a year. She'll be monitored every step of the way through blood tests to confirm that new blood cells are being produced and spend several months in Seattle before she can return home to Saskatchewan.

Schwartz' transplant will utilize cord blood but the need for bone marrow donors remains. While partially-matched bone marrow donors have been identified, the search remains open in finding an even better match, which includes a mixture of German, Russian and Ukrainian decent.

Two weeks ago, another donor who registered at a Yale bone marrow donor drive was called upon and donated stem cells to help save a 55-year old man. This was the second confirmed donation from one of the Yale bone marrow donor drives. Mandi and her family continue to encourage all adults to sign up as bone marrow donors, and for expectant mothers to sign up as cord blood donors.

In order to raise awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, umbilical cord blood donors and assist the Schwartz family with expenses, there will also be several fundraising events organized by Schwartz' teammates at Yale University. Three of Mandi's teammates, in fact, will be biking from Toronto to New Haven, Conn., in "The Ride for 17" (Mandi’s uniform number), starting Aug. 22.

For further information, please visit: http://www.yalebulldogs.com/sports/w-hockey/2010-11/releases/20100813yg6rdf

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