AURORA, Colo. — About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, but a medical breakthrough is happening at Children's Hospital Colorado.
People of African descent make up 90% of the population with sickle cell in the United States. It's a genetic disorder with lots of complications and limited survival.
Bone marrow transplantation is currently the only known cure for sickle cell disease. Only about 19% of people with it have a related family member who is a perfect match for a transplant. The trial happening now at Children's Hospital Colorado is changing things.
"What’s unique about this trial is rather than having to be a perfect match, we can use a family member who is a half match," said Dr. Rachelle Nuss, the director of the Sickle Cell Program at the hospital. "It really gives them (young patients) a new opportunity to be cured of their disease."
Hannah Boakye is one of five patients who have taken part in the trial. For years, she has struggled.
"I had a lot of joint pain, hospital visits and admissions," she said. "I wouldn’t be able to swim. I wouldn’t go hiking because of mountain pressure. I wouldn’t do much at all."
Hannah received the bone marrow transplant in August 2020. Her sister was an 80% match.
"It's safe to say I am 100% cured," Boakye said with a smile. "I am absolutely grateful. Because of science, I am here now."
In fact, all five patients in their late teens have been cured after taking part in the bone marrow transplant trial, according to Dr. Nuss.
"This opens up a cure to so many children with sickle cell disease all over the country, all over the world," said Dr. Nuss.
For Boakye, she's glad to be a symbol of hope now.
"I want everyone out there to know that there is a chance for people to get treatment and to feel better," she said.