Donated stem cells: Lifeline in blood cancer

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Dr Sita and Maheer

Stem cell donation gives hope to children suffering from blood cancer. 15-year-old Maheer from Gujarat, India, is a blood cancer survivor who had received lifesaving blood stem cell donation in 2012. He was able to find his matching blood stem cell donor, Dr. Sita, who hails from Germany.

Today, Maheer leads a normal, healthy and happy life. He is in grade 9 and loves to travel, read and swim! This stem blood cell donation could be possible through DKMS, a Germany based non-profit organization which registers donors for donating stem cells for patients of blood cancer and blood disorders.

DKMS has announced the milestone of providing more than 90,000 blood cancer patients across 57 countries with a second chance at life. The organization has presence in India, Germany, USA, Poland, UK, Chile, and South Africa.

On the occasion of World Childhood Cancer day that is marked on February 15 every, DKMS-BMST (Bangalore Medical Services Trust) Foundation India, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a second chance at life to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in India, has made an appeal to people to come forward and register as potential blood stem cell donors.

Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India, says: “DKMS is proud to be the world’s leading donor center, accounting for nearly 30% of the total donor pool. While this is a global milestone, when it comes to India, the fact is that the Indian donors are highly underrepresented in the global database.

“This is why it becomes difficult for doctors to find a matching blood stem cell donor for Indian patients. While DKMS has registered over 10.5 million donors and has provided over 90,000 patients with a second chance at life globally, it is critical to highlight that only over 43,000 Indian donors are part of this donor pool,” he added.

In India, every year, over one lakh people are diagnosed with a form of blood cancer and it remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among children.

Lack of awareness about blood cancer and its management is a key issue that should be focused on. Most people are unaware that a life- threatening disease like blood cancer can be treated and in most of the cases, a stem cell transplant is the patient’s only chance for survival.

According to data, today, more than 37 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centers and registries, of which only 0.03% are Indians.

Currently, in India, the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about blood stem cell transplant and the importance of registering as a potential blood stem cell donor. The entire procedure is safe and secure.

Once the blood stem cells are collected from a donor, they are infused into the patient through a transplant process which then moves through the bloodstream and settles in the bone marrow.

These new blood stem cells begin to increase in number and produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, resulting in the replacement of the patient’s diseased cells and that’s how a blood cancer patient gets a second chance at life.


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