With an aim to create awareness on blood stem cell donation and encourage people to register themselves as a potential lifesaver for blood cancer and blood disorder patients. DKMS BMST Foundation India, a non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and blood disorders conducted a weeklong blood stem cell donor registration drive at five different colleges in Mumbai. Over 500 students from S.K. Somaiya College, Vidyavihar University, John Wilson Education Society’s Wilson College (Autonomous) NSS unit, Ramnarain Ruia Autonomous College of Arts and science, Topiwala National Medical College and St. Andrews College of Arts, Science and Commerce came forward to register as potential blood stem cell donors. This also included some of the NCC and NSS students who registered as potential lifesaver.
Every 5 minutes, someone in India receives the shattering news that they have been diagnosed with blood cancer, Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia. A stem cell transplant from a matching donor is often the only chance at survival for these patients. Most often majority of patients are unable to receive a stem cell transplant due to the unavailability of a matching blood stem cell donor. With very few individuals signing up as potential blood stem cell donors the probability of finding a matching donor gets difficult. This increases the need for more people of Indian ethnicity to register themselves and help save a life.
Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India said “A Successful blood stem cell transplant needs a perfect HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) tissue match. There are more than 25,000 HLA characteristics (and more keep being discovered!), that exist in millions of combinations. Patients and donors of Indian origin have unique HLA characteristics that are severely under-represented in the global database, which makes the probability of finding a suitable donor even more difficult. India, being a young country, our aim is to raise greater awareness about blood stem cell donation through students. We are thankful to young students who have supported us in our drive, volunteered towards betterment of the society. We organize many registration events to encourage healthy individuals between 18-50 age-group register as potential donors.”
One of the students from the drive said that “I feel proud that I am given a chance to save someone’s life. The foundation’s noble cause gave me a platform to come forward and register as a potential stem cell donor. The process was very simple wherein you just have to give your cheek swab sample and sign a consent form. I appeal to all the citizens and especially youngsters to come forward and help those who need our urgent support mainly at this time when Covid-19 has impacted our lives in one way or the other.”
Donor’s swab samples are analyzed for HLA and the data is the available for global search for patients in need. Once a donor comes as a match they are asked to donate their blood stem cells through a process similar to blood platelet donation.
In India, many blood cancer patients are children and young people whose only chance of recovery is a stem cell transplant. Only about 30% of the patients in need of a stem cell transplant as lifesaving treatment, can find a sibling match. The rest 70% depend on finding a matching unrelated donor. Hence, there is a need for increased and continuous awareness among the people about blood stem cell registration and donation so people can register themselves. From time to time, DKMS BMST Foundation India conducts patient-donor drives to encourage registration and spread awareness.