George Schwartz said he's living proof that some frozen stems cells have the power to prolong life.
"So far, I'm in total remission, and I'm looking forward to a few more years," Schwartz said.
Three years ago, the art restorer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. The only hope was high doses of chemotherapy to kill the bad cells, but chemo kills the healthy ones, too, meaning a painful bone marrow transplant.
"We literally had to do surgeries obtaining the stem cells that regrow the blood cells after chemotherapy from the bone marrow," explained Dr. Krishna Komanduri, an oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami.
Doctors can now push the stem cells from the bone marrow and into the blood where they are easy to collect without an operation.
"I sat in a bed at the hospital, the clinic, and they drew blood," detailed Schwartz.
The blood containing the stem cells is stored, frozen, in a lab until the patient is admitted into the hospital for chemo.
"A day or two later, the previously collected stem cells are infused into the vein just like a blood transfusion," Komanduri said.
Studies show that multiple myeloma patients who undergo both chemo and a stem cell transplant survive longer and without symptoms.
"My youngest daughter got married and I was able to dance with her at her wedding, and now I'm looking forward to her having a baby," detailed Schwartz.
Schwartz is hoping to watch his grandchild grow up.
Doctors at blood cancer centers are now doing stem cell transplants in patients up to 75 years old. In some cases, the cells are harvested from a family member or from a stem cell registry, instead of from the patient.