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Experts emphasize on importance of a stem cell transplant in treating blood cancer patients

Experts have emphasised on the importance of a stem cell transplant in treating blood cancer patients.

On the eve of World Cancer Day, which is marked on February 4 every year, they added that every year, over one lakh people in India are diagnosed with some form of blood cancer, making it one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among children. Most people are unaware that a life-threatening disease like blood cancer can be treated by a stem cell transplant.

Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS-BMST, says, “Every 5 minutes someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer or a blood disorder. For many patients, the search for a matching blood stem cell donor is the beginning of a race against time.  Ethnicity plays a key role in finding a matching donor to facilitate a transplant because patients are most likely to find a match from someone of their own ethnicity.”

“Our focus is always on registering as many committed donors as possible. So far, DKMS-BMST has registered over 80,000 potential donors and has helped 75 patients with a second chance at life,” Paul added.

Dr Govind Eriat Nair, Consultant Hematology Hemato-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Gleneagles Global BGS Hospital, Bengaluru informs, “Stem cell transplantation from a related or unrelated donor is a standard treatment that has been utilized in blood cancer patients following 3 to 4 months of chemotherapy to help them recover from the disease. Without the stem cell transplant, the chances of a relapse are quite high. There are many patients who are unable to find an HLA matching donor in their family, in that case, we look for an unrelated matching donor.”

“Every person has a genetic twin somewhere in the world, and through global donor registries we try to get a ‘HLA Type’ matched donor.  These donors are heroes, and they support us by donating their healthy stem cells to patients in need. Thanks to registries like DKMS-BMST, it's possible to find a matching donor. The need of the hour is to increase awareness and encourage more Indians to register as stem cell donors” by giving their cheek swab sample and help us save more lives,” Dr Nair said.

Dr Santanu Sen, Bone Marrow Transplant specialist, Hemato Oncologist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri Mumbai, informs, Stem cell registries can play an important role in helping blood cancer patients by providing a source of potential stem cell donors for bone marrow transplants. A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, is a treatment that can potentially cure leukemia if it is done in the early stages of the disease and the patient is in a good physical condition.”

“The success of the transplant depends on finding a suitable donor who is a genetic match for the patient. In India, the major problem is that there are still relatively fewer donors that are registered. Registries are constantly working on increasing the number of donors on their databases in order to increase the chances of finding a match for patients in need of a stem cell transplant. Another major issue is that there is still significant reluctance to donate stem cells after a potential match is identified due to irrational fears about the procedure. It is important to note that being a stem cell donor is a relatively simple and safe process, and it can make a huge difference in the life of someone with leukemia,” Dr Sen added.

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