4-year-old receiving adult stem cell transplant to ward off recurrence of neuroblastoma cancer

By Dave Andrusko

Leah Still (Courtesy Devon Still)

Leah Still (Courtesy Devon Still)

It is one of those stories that makes everyone wipe a tear of joy away and then celebrate.

Devon Still is a defensive tackle for Cincinnati Bengals. Yesterday Still shared a photo on Instagram of his daughter Leah preparing for a stem cell transplant.

Leah was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma cancer last year and the bravery she has displayed in fighting that deadly disease since then “has captured the hearts of millions,” as one reporter put it.

The good news is that the stem cell transplant is an example of “better safe than sorry.” She’s been in remission for over a month but according to her father’s post, he’s been asked then why the transplant?:

Remission basically means that doctors can’t see any cancerous cells when looking at scans and test. But when studying cancer you know that although you can’t see any cancer cells on scans, physicals, or test because of the strength of the technology, more than likely there are cells hiding.

I have been unable to locate specifics about the transplant, so I asked Dr. David Prentice, our expert on all-things stem cells, what is likely going on. He wrote me that he, too, did not have the particulars about 4-year-old Leah’s treatment but added

It is definitely adult stem cell. The usual treatment uses the patient’s own (autologous) bone marrow adult stem cells, collected after stimulating the cells to come out into the bloodstream

In other words, they are using ethical unobjectionable adult stem cells which are the “gold standard” when it comes to helping patients. Over 60,000 patients are treated each year because of the track record of adult stem cells in saving lives and improving health.

They are so many wonderful aspects to the story of Devon and Leah. Five days ago in another Instagram post

Still said Leah was sad about spending her fifth birthday in the hospital at first but then told him, “That’s ok! Can we just have cake and balloons in my room?’”

Instead the football player surprised his daughter with a weekend trip to her favorite place, Disney World.

“Although her only wish was for cake and balloons I couldn’t let my baby celebrate her bday like that,” he wrote in the post.

According to reporter David Chang, Leah had a tumor removed from her abdomen last June. She “completed her latest course of chemotherapy last month.”

But then there is the exemplary, generous behavior of the Cincinnati Bengals. Last August Devon was cut from the team but they “signed Still to their practice squad in order to help him pay for his daughter’s medical treatment after she was diagnosed with cancer,” Chang reported.

Still’s No. 75 jersey quickly became the team’s top seller after the Bengals decided to donate proceeds from his jersey sales to the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and pediatric cancer care and research. More than $1 million have been raised from sales of the $100 jersey, according to the AP.