British stem cell services have celebrated a double anniversary for World Marrow Donor Day.
The 30th anniversary of the British Bone Marrow Registry and 20th for the NHS Cord Blood Bank was marked on Saturday (17 September, 2016), which was also World Marrow Donor Day.
Over the past 30 years, 3,645 patients have received potentially lifesaving bone marrow and stem cell transplants from adult donors or umbilical cord blood.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said it is the generous donors who have played an integral part in saving lives.
Guy Parkes, head of stem cell donation and transplantation at NHSBT, said: “The BBMR has come a long way since it was set up 30 years ago, with nearly 367,400 potential bone marrow and stem cell donors, and frozen cord blood units to help those with life-threatening illnesses. In addition, modern techniques such as next generation sequencing have speeded up the matching process, so lifesaving treatment is dispensed sooner.
“Our main priority is to ensure we have the right mix of donors to help increase our ability to find more matches. This includes donors from black Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, who are needed to help increase the mix of tissue types on the register. The NHS Cord Blood Bank greatly supports this by collecting cord blood from different communities.
“Our huge appreciation and thanks is given to those who are registered with the BBMR, especially those who have become donors and also mothers who have donated their cord blood, as without them saving lives would not be possible. Their selfless generosity gives others the chance of life. Each donation gives a lifeline to seriously ill patients and helps them survive life threatening illnesses.”
The BBMR and NHS Cord Blood Bank work in partnership with Anthony Nolan, the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry and Delete Blood Cancer UK as part of the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry.
The BBMR recruits, tests and registers blood donors who volunteer to become bone marrow and stem cell donors. It is also part of a worldwide network of 76 stem cell registries, which has more than 28 million donors worldwide, and it co-operates to match donors to patients across the globe.
About 2,000 people in the UK need a lifesaving stem cell transplant every year.
Last year the registry helped find a match for more than 200 people - but says there is still a shortage of suitable donors.
Seventeen-year-old Carl Hillis had a lifesaving bone marrow transplant eight years ago when his T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma returned. He was originally diagnosed with the disease at the age of three and underwent more than two years of chemotherapy treatment before going into remission.
When the disease returned in 2008, he had more intense treatment, followed by a bone marrow transplant to give him the best chance of survival.
Carl from Essex, who is studying journalism at college, said: “All my family were tested but none were a close enough match. My donor, Tony, was a 10 out of 10 perfect match and was the same blood group.
“I am really thankful to Tony for his kindness and generosity as without the transplant I might not be here today. He has given me the chance to live a normal, healthy and fulfilling life. I am able to take part in a lot of sports such as rugby with my local club, swimming and motorsport. I am eternally grateful that he was on the British Bone Marrow Registry and my perfect match.”
NHS Cord Blood Bank – the world’s fourth largest public cord blood bank – began 20 years ago and has the second highest proportion of rare tissues types in the world.
It holds more than 14,000 cord blood units banked from mothers who have donated cord blood taken from the placenta and umbilical cord after the birth of a baby. Nearly 600 cord blood donations have been provided from the NHS Cord Blood Bank to help to save lives.
Thanks to new procedures, such as next generation DNA sequencing (NGS) tissue typing developed by NHSBT, the speed and accuracy of donor identification has been increased and this has led to better matching and reduced the time to transplant for patients, NHS Blood and Transplant says.
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