Mumbai: On this World Marrow Donor Day, observed on September 16, experts have highlighted that the treatment of blood cancer across India faces a major challenge. They have urged citizens to register with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) DKMS BMST Foundation India for donations so that people in need can cope with the scarcity of compatible stem cells.
The NGO in association with Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital has facilitated the three individuals Samarth, Pranjal and Shashank, who donated their stem cells.
As of now, over 13,000 individuals have enrolled in the organisation’s donor stem cell registry in Maharashtra, and there are over 90,000 registrants throughout India. More than 41 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centers and registries, of which only 0.04% are Indians.
Stem cell transplantation
A stem cell transplantation involves the transfusion of stem cells from a healthy donor to a patient suffering from blood cancer or blood disorders such as thalassemia, aplastic or sickle cell anaemia. In India, blood cancer patients encounter significant challenges when seeking treatment through stem cell transplantation.
The shortage of HLA (tissue type) leaves patients in a race to find a matching donor before they succumb to the disease. The experts believe that there is an urgent requirement for increased awareness and support for blood cell transplantation in India from both the public and the medical community.
Dr Santanu Sen, consultant, of Pediatric Haematology, Oncology, and stem cell transplantation at Kokilaben Hospital, said, “Every five minutes, one person in India is diagnosed with blood cancer and blood disorders. Many such patients need a blood stem cell transplant to survive. An HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) matched donor is required for a successful stem cell transplant. However, only a fraction of patients find an HLA-matched donor within their family, and for about 70-80% of the cases, patients look for a matched ‘unrelated’ donor.”
“Every year, about 65,000 new searches are initiated worldwide for an unrelated matching donor, but due to the lack of a matching donor, India has one of the highest ratios of searches that do not result in transplantation,” he said.
Huge gap in demand and supply
Patrick Paul, CEO, of DKMS BMST Foundation India, said, “As per the World Marrow Donor Association, there are over 41 million donors registered across the globe. In India, there is a huge demand and supply gap in patients looking for stem cell transplants from a matching donor. Finding a matching blood stem cell donor remains a critical obstacle for Indian patients seeking life-saving transplants.”
Dr Santosh Shetty, CEO, of Kokilaben Hospital, said,“We have facilitated more than 250 lives, including several underprivileged patients, at minimal cost, enabling them to embrace a Thalassemia-free life, and break free from complications.”