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Monday, December 06, 2021

‘India needs a stem cell donor database to fight blood cancer’

It is crucial to establish linkages between patients and donors for successful stem cell transplant procedures, says Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST foundation.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: November 5, 2021 11:19:23 am
blood cancer blood stem cell donationPatrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST foundation

Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST foundation, a non-profit organisation, is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and other blood disorders, such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia and says there is a need for a stem cell donor database in the country. Excerpts from an interview.

The burden of blood cancer in India is high. How important is it to have a stem cell donor database available for the treatment of such patients?

In India, more than a lakh people are diagnosed with blood cancer and blood disorders such as Thalassemia every year. Blood stem cell transplant is often the only treatment option for such patients and for which they need blood stem cells from a human leukocyte antigens (HLA)-matched donor.

Only 30 per cent of the patients can find a sibling match. The rest 70 per cent depend on finding a matching unrelated donor. However, only 0.04 per cent of the Indian population is registered as potential blood stem cell donors. Thus there exists a need for a stem cell donor database in the country.

What role does ethnicity play in establishing an HLA match between donor and patient?

A stem cell transplant is successful only if the donor’s HLA matches the patient. The body’s immune system has proteins known as HLA to distinguish cells that belong to the body from those that do not. As HLA types are inherited, the best chance of finding a suitable donor is with someone of a similar ethnic background.

With the shrinking size of families, low representation in the global donor database, and millions of combinations of HLA leading to more diverse ethnicity, finding a match becomes difficult. It is thus crucial to establish linkages between patients and donors for successful transplant procedures.

What are the misconceptions about blood stem cell donation?

Donating blood stem cells is purely voluntary and requires a person’s commitment to the cause. A donor does not incur any cost, either while registering as a potential donor, or while donating their blood stem cells.

Registries like DKMS-BMST contact a registered donor only in the event of receiving a match request from the transplant physician of a patient. They are responsible for facilitating the donation of blood stem cells at no cost to the donor.

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