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Freezer fails at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, destroying stem cells from 56 cancer patients

Oncologist reacts after stem cells destroyed

A freezer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles failed earlier this month, leading to more than four dozen cancer patients losing their stored stem cells. The hospital said the blood stem cells were collected from patients and held in long-term storage for future use if needed.

"Earlier this month, Children's Hospital Los Angeles sent letters to 56 patients and their families to notify them of a freezer malfunction that resulted in the loss of their child's blood stem cells. No child's health is in jeopardy due to this incident," according to a statement released Wednesday by the hospital.

The hospital said the cause of the malfunction was a failure of freezer temperature sensors. The hospital said safeguards had been in place at the time, but "were not sufficient."

The news of the stem-cell loss was a blow to patients and their parents already going through the difficulties of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Sean Anderson Coronoa, a 13-year-old patient who underwent stem-cell therapy, is one of the patients affected at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. His mother, Elizabeth Anderson, spoke to KABC-TV about her concerns following the freezer failure, specifically the ability to harvest future stem cells through her son's blood.

"Once you're through that whole process of doing all the treatment, you've damaged your body," said Anderson. "That's how damaging chemo is or the radiation alone. And so it's the same with the stem cells. He doesn't have that as an option to just collect more."

The hospital said they have notified all affected families and have experts on hand to answer questions. A hospital phone line has been set up for the families to call as well. 

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