Every 5 minutes, somebody in India receives the shattering news that they have been diagnosed with Blood Cancer (such as Leukemia, Lymphoma or Myeloma), Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia. Many patients are children and young people whose only chance of recovery is a stem cell donation.
Only about 30% of the patients in need of a stem cell transplant as life-saving treatment, are able to find a sibling match. The rest 70% depend on finding a matching unrelated donor. This website provides you with a concise overview of the subject of blood cancer and stem cell donation. With your help we can defeat blood cancer, thalassemia and aplastic anemia!
Information on other topics can be found in our FAQ.Visit the FAQ
Depending on the level of maturity of the blood cells in which these malignant changes take places, doctors distinguish between three main groups of blood cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma and malignant lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes).
Stem cell transplants are often the only prospect of recovery from blood cancer illnesses.
The role of HLA types
HLA is the abbreviation of ‘human leucocyte antigen’ which is commonly known as ‘tissue types’. HLA determines structures on the surfaces of white blood cells which allow the immune system to distinguish between its own and alien tissue. For a blood stem cell transplant to succeed, it is important that the HLA of the donor and patient are as close to identical as possible in order to avoid rejection reactions between graft and patient.
The needle in the haystack
Tissue types are passed from parents to children. But only a third of patients who need stem cell donations find a suitable donor within their own families. Most of them therefore require another donor who is not related to them. The likelihood of finding a suitable donor outside the family, however, is very low, since the number of possible combinations of HLA types is very great indeed – there can be more than 10,000 permutations.
Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when normal blood cells change and grow uncontrollably. There are four main types named according to the cells affected (myeloblasts, lymphocytes) and whether the disease starts with mature or immature cells (chronic, acute).
Lymphoma is the name for a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in blood and bone marrow) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in lymph node and lymphatic tissue.)
Multiple myeloma starts in the bone marrow when plasma cells begin to grow uncontrollably. As the cells grow, they compromise the immune system and impair the production and function of white and red blood cells causing bone disease, organ damage and anemia among other conditions.
Transferring stem cells from a donor to a patient gives the patient an opportunity to develop a new and healthy blood-forming system.
In the current understanding of the transplant setting, six different HLA types are of importance: HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C, HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DPB1.
Across these six types, there are currently over 18,000 known variations which can be combined in millions of ways.
To find unrelated donors – who we call ‘genetic twins’ – DKMS-BMST registers as many stem cell donors as possible in order to give every blood cancer patient a second chance at life. We are not yet there, hence, unfortunately 4 out of 10 patients do not find an unrelated donor.
Becoming a blood stem cell donor is easy. To do so, you can register online here. When you are ready to register, all you need to do is complete a registration form. You will receive a DKMS-BMST swab kit at your home. You can swab the inside of your cheeks to collect your all-important tissue cells and send the signed consent form and swabbed samples back to us. By and large, that’s everything done from your point of view.
Our laboratory analyses your tissue types and enters them into our database. Your details will then be available in the global search for stem cell donors. If you do come up as a suitable donor, we will get in touch with you straight away.
Stem cells are obtained from the bloodstream using a procedure called peripheral blood stem cell donation. This is very safe, non-surgical outpatient procedure.
To allow your tissue types to be analysed, we take a cheek smear using swabs.
2. Testing for tissue types
If your tissue types match those of a patient, this will be confirmed again using a blood sample which we take from you and other blood readings will be determined.
3. Health check
After a thorough health check and clarification by a doctor, nothing stands in the way of stem cell donation - provided you have given your final consent.
4. Peripheral stem cell donation
Peripheral blood stem cell collection is a safe and non-surgical outpatient procedure. The process is similar to a blood platelet donation that takes approximately four hours to complete. PBSC collection method
5. Stem cell transplantation
Stem cells are transplanted to the patient just like a blood transfusion. Thereafter, they take up residency in the patient’s bone cavities and begin to form new, healthy blood cells there.
Registration costs us money
To be specific, we need financial help to register new donors in our database. Determining the tissue types of each donor in our laboratory costs money.
Monetary donation for a chance to live
Every rupee counts in the fight against blood cancer, because the costs for registration of a new donor, including the required tissue typing, has to be covered by DKMS-BMST. However, we understand that not everyone can support us with a monetary donation when they register.