Scots parents to make medical history when they donate stem cells to daugther


SCOTS parents will make medical history next month when they donate stem cells to their cancer-stricken daughter.

Mackenzie Furniss, nine, is suffering from an advanced form of childhood cancer and needs an experimental treatment to save her life.

Her parents, Kimberley and Jason, from Sauchie, Clackmannanshire, will give stem cells to Mackenzie – the first time the risky procedure has ever been carried out in Scotland.

Mackenzie with her parents Kimberley and Jason, and younger sisters Addison and Taylor

The £300,000 treatment is being pioneered by German doctor Professor Peter Lang.

After Mackenzie’s parents struggled to raise funds for the treatment, the Scottish Government stepped in with £160,000 to fund the stem cell donation, which will be carried out in Glasgow.

Mackenzie will then need to make six return trips to Prof Lang’s clinic near Stuttgart for antibody treatment to stop her body rejecting her parents’ stem cells.

Kimberley, 29, said the stem cell donation was the last chance for their daughter and they did not have to think about whether they would take part.

Both have given blood samples which scientists at Yorkhill Hospital are analysing to establish who is the best match.

Once selected, Kimberley or Jason will receive an injection which promotes the growth of their own stem cells. Blood is then taken and the stem cells extracted, after which the blood is put back in the body.

Whoever donates will need six weeks to recover.

Kimberley said: “It was a very natural decision, it’s the only option that we have left really, so of course we had to do it.”

She added: “Mackenzie just wants it to be over now. I wouldn’t say she’s excited for it to start, but she is excited for it to be over.

“It’s not a simple procedure, and we know it will take a while, so we are hoping that when it starts it will just fly by.

“Mackenzie really just wants to get back to normal and see her friends and go and play.”

Prof Lang confirmed that Mackenzie will be the first person to undergo the procedure – called Haploidentical stem cell transplant – in Scotland.

He said: “This is a dangerous procedure for patients.

“We treat extremely ill patients who have relapsed after a previous transplantation who have a zero chance to survive without it.

“We cannot say that it will work, and they will be cured but the aim is to get a cure for these patients. The study is still at an early stage, there are no final results yet.

“We started in 2009 and we can say that patients treated in 2009 and 2010 are still alive.”

Prof Lang said the follow-up antibody treatment could take up to half a year to complete.

Although the Scottish Government is funding the stem cell donation in Glasgow, Mackenzie’s family will have to find in the region of £140,000 to pay for the follow up treatment and travel and accommodation costs.

The family launched an appeal in July and they have so far  raised more than £178,000 from more than 5000 donations.

Grammy award winner Pink generously donated £10,000 and the family are now confident that they will be able to afford the treatment and any follow ups which Mackenzie has to receive.