Basic Information

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

Blood cancer, HLA types and the needle in the haystack

Blood cancer refers to defects in the blood-forming (hematopoietic) system. These defects stop the normal process of maturation and natural cell death, leading to the formation of immature or dysfunctional blood cells. These blood cells, which can no longer carry out normal cell functions and no longer die a natural death, are known as cancer cells. They enter the bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably, crowding out the healthy cells. This means the blood can no longer perform its tasks, such as oxygen transportation and defense against germs.

Blood cancer

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.

How we can defeat blood cancer together

Today, more than 31 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centres and registries. However, donors of all ethnic groups other than North Western European origin are still under-represented in the worldwide databases. Due to this under-representation, it is extremely difficult for Indian patients to find a matching unrelated donor. This situation can only be changed by recruiting many potential stem cell donors from India.

You might well be the right match, and you could become a true lifesaver with your stem cell donation. Our video answer the most frequently asked questions about registration and stem cell donation. Find out how easy it is to register with DKMS-BMST, and how you too could become a lifesaver.


How does stem cell donation work?

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.

Five steps to donating stem cells – overview

1. Registration


To allow your tissue types to be analysed, we take a cheek smear using swabs.

2. Testing for tissue types

Health check

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

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 cell Transplant

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.

How your monetary donation can also save lives

DKMS-BMST is an initiative of BMST which is a not-for-profit trust, having its registered office at Bengaluru, Karnataka. We finance ourselves by means of monetary donations from private individuals and companies.

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.

Maintaining our database

We can only sustain our crucial community if private individuals, companies and associations support us financially.

Other ways to help

There are many ways to support our fight against blood cancer.