The Success Rate Of Blood Cancer Treatment
With stem-cell transplant is now as much as 80%, but only 1 in a million people can find a matching donor: Experts
Blood cancer patients face significant challenges in India for treatment with stem cell transplantation, with only 1 in a million people able to find a fully matching donor. Despite the transformative potential of this treatment, a shortage of suitable donors is a major obstacle, leaving patients in a race against time to find a matching donor before they succumb to the disease. There is thus a critical need for more awareness and support for blood cell transplantation in India from the people and medical community.
Experts said this at an event organized by DKMS BMST Foundation India, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, ahead of World Blood Cancer Day. They highlighted the need to bridge the awareness gap and foster a stronger culture of voluntary blood stem cell donation in India.
Six stem cell donors – between 23 to 33 years of age – shared their personal stories, appealing to people to come forward and contribute to the donor pool and help save lives, as they have done.
Blood cancer, a life-threatening condition affecting thousands of individuals in India, often necessitates the intervention of a blood stem cell transplant as the last hope for survival. However, a mere 30% of patients requiring a transplant are fortunate enough to find a suitable match within their own family. The remaining 70% rely on the challenging task of finding an unrelated donor with a matching profile, further exacerbating the difficulties patients and their families face. Every year, over 70 thousand precious lives are lost to blood cancer in India, while the number of blood stem cell donors stands at a meager 0.04%.
Dr. Narendra Agarwal, Senior Consultant, Department of Hemato-Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, New Delhi, said, “Blood cancer poses a grave challenge in India, impacting numerous lives yearly. With over 1 lakh new cases reported annually, effective treatments are paramount. However, the scarcity of suitable donors remains a concern, as the chance of finding a full match is approximately 1 in a million. Stem cell transplant has emerged as a powerful treatment modality in the battle against blood cancer. We have witnessed remarkable outcomes and improved survival rates by harnessing the power of healthy blood cells. While the outcome may vary based on individual and disease characteristics, timely interventions have shown successful treatment in 60-70% of the cases. With advancements in conditioning regimens, the success rate has further soared to 80%. Whether it's leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, stem cell transplantation is a transformative therapy that regenerates a healthy blood and immune system. By raising awareness, expanding the donor registry, and fostering a culture of giving, we can overcome this hurdle and offer hope to those battling blood cancers in India."
“As a hematologist, I witness the devastating impact of blood cancer daily, and I understand the pain and urgency experienced by patients awaiting a life-saving stem cell transplant. It's time for us to step up, unite, and make a difference,” Dr. Narendra added.
Creating a comprehensive stem cell donor database is crucial for India's fight against blood cancer, emphasized Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India. “Every 5 minutes, a new instance of blood cancer or a blood disorder, such as Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia, is diagnosed in India. Matching blood stem cell donors remain a critical obstacle for Indian patients seeking life-saving transplants. Today, with over 40 million registered donors worldwide, India accounts for just 0.5 million. Thousands of patients are in dire need of a compatible stem cell donor for life-saving transplants. Establishing a robust donor database can bridge the gap between patients and potential donors. While DKMS has made significant progress in registering over 2500 people from Delhi in our database, it is evident that this number falls short in addressing the critical shortage of donors. We urge more individuals to come forward and join our cause, as every new registration brings hope to those in desperate need of a life-saving stem cell transplant," added Patrick.
At the event, the donor Asmita said: “I never imagined that a simple act of donating stem cells would have such a profound impact on someone's life. Being able to offer a blood cancer patient hope and a chance at survival fills me with immense gratitude.”
Added another donor Paritosh: “Being a stem cell donor has opened my eyes to the immense strength and resilience of those fighting blood cancer. It is an honor to offer a chance at life and be a part of their journey towards recovery”.
A significant obstacle registries face in recruiting donors is the lack of awareness, explained Dr. Narendra Agarwal. “There is a common misconception among many individuals that a stem cell donation is a painful and invasive procedure. It is essential to dispel these myths and educate the public that blood stem cell donation is simple and painless. Another significant barrier is the prevailing fear among individuals regarding becoming stem cell donors, as they harbor concerns about potential adverse effects on their health. This fear factor often deters many from stepping forward to contribute as potential life-saving donors. By spreading accurate information, we can encourage more people to step forward as potential donors and provide hope to those suffering from blood cancer."
DKMS BMST Foundation India has over 80,000 registered donors in India and has facilitated 87 transplants since its inception in 2019, significantly impacting the fight against blood cancer. It aims to save numerous lives by registering numerous donors in India and worldwide.
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