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Stem cell transplant scheduled for Mandi Schwartz

by Mike G. Morreale /
The battle that Mandi Schwartz has exhibited during her two-year bout with cancer might be reaching its final stage.
According to, Schwartz, 22, the sister of 2010 St. Louis Blues' first-round draft choice Jaden Schwartz, is scheduled for her stem cell transplant on Sept. 22 at the Seattle Care Alliance's inpatient transplant unit at the University of Washington Medical Center.
The date was determined following the results of a recent biopsy conducted by doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The transplant for Schwartz, a former forward for the Yale women's hockey team, will utilize stem cells from two umbilical cord blood units donated anonymously to public cord blood banks.
The procedure will hopefully end her battle with acute myeloid leukemia -- a type of cancer that starts inside the bone marrow and grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells within the immune system. The stem cell transplant will provide a new blood and immune system, something Schwartz' needs to survive.
"The scheduling of the transplant gives us reason for optimism,” Rick Schwartz, Mandi's father, told "Mandi has kept up a positive attitude throughout this whole process, and we are looking forward to the day when she can be declared cancer-free. We continue to be thankful for all the support that we have received, and for the efforts of the doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Please continue raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donors and umbilical cord blood donors to save the lives of all patients who need transplants like the one Mandi will receive."
The original transplant, scheduled Aug. 19, was postponed after it was determined Schwartz' cancer had returned. After being discharged from the hospital on Aug. 19 following another round of chemotherapy, Mandi returned to the University of Washington Medical Center for further tests.
One of the units of umbilical cord blood has had its number of stem cells increased using a procedure pioneered by Dr. Colleen Delaney of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. With the increased amount of stem cells involved in the transplant, engraftment -- the generation of infection-fighting white blood cells of Mandi's new immune system following transplantation -- is likely to happen more quickly, limiting the risk of infections.
Schwartz 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 she 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.
The Schwartz family then met Dr. Delaney and the 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.
Mandi's brother, Jaden, was drafted with the 14th pick by the St. Louis Blues on June 25 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Jaden, 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.
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