Boy saved from cancer by stem cells from new baby’s umbilical cord

Riley Maclennan has been chosen to launch World Cancer Day in Scotland as a result of his remarkable story.

Boy saved from cancer by stem cells from new baby’s umbilical cord Cancer Research UK
Riley with proud dad Kevin Maclennan.

A seven-year-old boy was saved from cancer thanks to stem cells taken from a new baby’s umbilical cord.

Riley Maclennan has been chosen to launch World Cancer Day in Scotland as a result of his inspiring story.

He received the transplant in September last year after the disease came back for a second time.

Riley, from Inverness, underwent chemotherapy treatment and spent weeks in isolation in Glasgow – hundreds of miles away from home.

Now in remission, Riley and his proud parents, Kevin Maclennan and Moira Black are sharing their remarkable family story to inspire others to play a part in the fight against cancer.

They have urged people to raise money for life-saving research by making a donation and wearing a Cancer Research UK Unity Band on Friday, February 4 – which as well as World Cancer Day, also marks the charity’s 20th anniversary. 

The band is available online and in Cancer Research UK shops in three different colours – pink, navy and blue.

It can be worn in memory of a loved one, to celebrate people who’ve overcome cancer or in support of those going through treatment. 

Riley has been chosen to launch World Cancer Day in Scotland. (Cancer Research UK/Paul Campbell)Cancer Research UK
Riley has been chosen to launch World Cancer Day in Scotland. (Cancer Research UK/Paul Campbell)

Dad Kevin said: “There’s a new mum out there who has saved our little boy’s life. 

“We’ve been given the greatest gift of all from a stranger.

“The stem cells from the umbilical cord looked just like a small bag of blood but they had amazing power.

“Riley’s blood counts are great now and there are no signs of leukaemia cells. That means the world to us.

“Riley has an ability to bounce back and we’re so proud of him.”

Riley was just two-years-old when in December 2016, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

He started on 28 days of intensive chemotherapy followed by regular chemotherapy over the next four years.

The family were told in October 2020 that Riley was in remission and he was able to ring the end of treatment bell at a ceremony at home in Inverness. 

But, in spring last year, Riley became unwell again and in May he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer that is very rare in children.

Doctors explained that some people with myelodysplastic syndrome go on to develop acute myeloid leukaemia and that in Riley’s case the risk of this was very high unless they moved quickly with treatment. 

Kevin said: “We were told that Riley was the only child in Scotland who they’d seen this happen to after leukaemia treatment.

“They could find only one similar case in America and there were cases of two children who had been treated in London.

“After everything that Riley had been through we were devastated. Riley had grown up facing cancer and just as we finally thought we’d put that chapter of our lives behind us we were right back in it.”

He added: “We’ve been through a lot as a family but now if we can help others we will.

“That’s why we want everyone across Scotland to get one of Cancer Research UK’s Unity Bands.

“Wearing one is such a simple way to show solidarity with people affected by cancer, while also raising vital funds.”