Stories about: Dr. Steven Margossian

Brother’s stem cells send Emma’s leukemia into remission

Emma and her brother, Alexander, following her stem cell transplant.

How do you repay someone who has given you the gift of life? Eight-year-old Emma Duffin of Enfield, Connecticut, started by giving a kiss and cuddle to her brother, Alexander, who donated his bone marrow stem cells to Emma to reboot her immune system and send her rare form of leukemia into remission.

Emma’s journey to a stem cell transplant began in April 2014, when her usual energetic demeanor began to change. “Emma was very vibrant, very active, and she did not like to rest,” says her father, Brian Duffin. But suddenly his go-go daughter was exhausted all the time. She was diagnosed with strep throat, then foot-and-mouth disease, but neither medication nor time brought any improvement.

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Brother donates stem cells to sister battling leukemia

Gia Lesselroth (consent # 8036) is leukemia/transplant patient. For her visit she is accoompanied by her mother Marissa and her brother Logan who was her donor. With nurse Erin Santacroce, RN, BSN

On September 24, 2015, in a sixth floor room at Boston Children’s Hospital, 5-year-old Logan Lesselroth pressed the button that started the transfer of his newly harvested blood stem cells to his 3-year-old sister, Gianna.

“This,” Gianna told him, “is a gift from your body.”

The path to that moment and the stem cell transplant’s potential to cure Gianna of her relapsed leukemia was anything but straightforward. Logan has a genetic condition called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD), which makes it difficult for his body to convert sugar to energy. Would his metabolic disorder be passed to Gianna? Would the disorder make it too risky for Logan to have his stem cells harvested?

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 4½ months, Gianna achieved a remission that lasted two years. In May 2015, the leukemia was back. With that, Mike and Marissa Lesselroth sought options for their daughter in their home state of Florida and beyond. “We talked to her doctors in Florida, and they agreed that coming to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s was the best choice for Gianna because they offered a lot of treatment options for relapsed leukemia,” Mike says.

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