First cancer treatment with cord blood


The brothers Milton Ende and Norman Ende were both medical doctors who were intrigued by the possibility of using cord blood to treat cancer. Bear in mind their initial experiments took place around the same time as the work of Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who later won the Nobel Prize for inventing bone marrow transplants.

Dr. Thomas was successful because he relied on stem cells to replenish the immune systems of patients who had received intensive chemotherapy. The Endes tested the hypothesis that the blood of newborns contained factors that would inhibit the growth of cancer - at first they hoped that the cord blood alone would be able to stop cancer, which did not work.

In the summer of 1963, Dr. Milton Ende attempted to save a 48 year old woman who had a "hopeless" case of metastatic sarcoma. She had previously received surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Over the course of July - August, she received fresh cord blood from 17 babies. "During and following this therapy, the patient appeared to feel considerably better. There was no change in the growth appearance of the lesions on the chest wall. The patient left the hospital and appeared to do well for several weeks when she began to go downhill again." She died in March 1964.

In March 1970 the Ende brothers became the first to use cord blood to treat leukemia. This patient was a 16 year old boy who had no prior medical problems before he developed acute leukemia. In this case report the Endes discuss the "bone marrow transplant" approach. Their patient received both chemotherapy and umbilical cord blood from 8 different babies. For a while, the patient's blood tests showed the genetic make up of the 6th baby, but by late May his own genetic type had returned. However, this patient received enough chemotherapy to cure his leukemia and survived, with the cord blood supporting his treatment.


  1. Ende M. 1966 Pac. Med. & Surg. (March-April):80-82. Lymphangiosarcoma. Report of a Case.
  2. Ende M., & Ende, N. 1972 Virginia Medical Monthly 99(3):276-80. Hematopoietic Transplantation by Means of Fetal (Cord) Blood. A New Method.
  3. Profile in Richmond Alumni Magazine

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