Doctor: Ikee’s recovery extraordinary

Swimmer Rikako Ikee, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, received chemotherapy that included the administration of anti-cancer drugs. But after developing complications, she gave up chemotherapy and received a transplant of blood-forming stem cells in the summer of 2019.

With the recovery of her health, Ikee returned to the pool in March last year.

In transplants of blood-forming stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells — the source of blood cells — provided from healthy donors are administered intravenously. Because of the risk of complications, patients are usually required to continue testing and treatment long after transplantation.

Takahiro Fukuda, 56, the head of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Department at the National Cancer Center Hospital, said, “It is extremely unusual for a patient to recover to top athlete level in just over a year after leaving the hospital.”

He said that the speed in which she went into remission with no visible signs of symptoms had little to do with her high physical ability. “It is probably because of her efforts and the support of her team, in addition to the smooth treatment, that brought her level of competition back to that point. I would like to sincerely support Ikee, who has given courage to many people, including patients,” Fukuda said.