In the fall of 1995, Mr. Sprague was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Unfortunatley, after 18 months of chemotherapy and in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, he found himself in “blast crisis”—the end stage of his disease. An only child with no siblings as possible donors and unable to find an unrelated marrow match in any of the donor registries, he was realistically told to “get his affairs in order.”
In October 1997, Mr. Sprague was presented with an unexpected, but high-risk, opportunity to become one of the first adult patients to participate in a pioneering clinical trial being conducted at Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey, using umbilical cord blood as an alternative to bone marrow as a stem cell source.
Following his successful transplant more than 13 years ago, Mr. Sprague remains completely cured of his leukemia and in relatively good health. He has lived to see both of his children marry and prosper and is now a most-proud grandfather to five grandchildren.
Mr. Sprague demonstrates the importance of the clinical trial process and that cord blood stem cells can be used effectively on full-sized adult patients if the human leukocyte antigen match is optimal. His case has been published by Dr. Andrew L. Pecora and his colleagues in the April 2000 issue of Bone Marrow Transplantation. Mr. Sprague is often requested to appear and testify before the FDA, various U.S. House and Senate Committees and the White House, each investigating promising, non-embryonic adult stem cell applications. In October 2007, he was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to serve on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Advisory Council on Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.
He currently serves as director of patient advocacy for CORD:USE, a family cord blood bank in Orlando, Florida.