18 March 2024

Stem cell donor registries can increase donor loyalty by maintaining strong ties, according to a major study of the world’s largest donor organisation.

The organisation in the study, DKMS, has 12 million donors in Germany, the UK, the USA, Poland, South Africa, Chile, and India.

Once a potential donor has been matched with a patient in need of a stem cell transplant, possibly years after they first registered, the potential donor is contacted for confirmatory HLA typing. However, at this stage, around one in five donors become unavailable or reluctant to go through with the donation process. The study aimed to find out how to counteract this effect.

The results showed that donors who were asked to submit a fresh blood sample at a time after registering were the most motivated to donate at a later stage.

The study involved more than 91,000 donors who joined the scheme between 2013 and 2018 and who were potential matches for a patient with blood cancer.

Some received no contact from DKMS while others received varying requests for information, with a subgroup being asked to send in fresh blood samples. Amongst this group, the proportion of potential donors who were reluctant to donate stem cells, when asked, reduced by 37%.

The findings have been published in the American Journal of Health Economics and involved researchers from the University of Tübingen, Germany, Johns Hopkins University, USA, the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and the Universities of Cologne and Essen-Duisburg, Germany.

Researcher Professor Patrick Kampkötter, of the University of Tübingen, said: “It's amazing that we were able to identify such positive effects despite the additional effort involved in taking a blood sample. The donors are reminded of their ability to help by being contacted again and they probably feel more motivated as a result.”


Haylock M, Kampkötter P, Macis M, Sauter J, Seitz S, Slonim R, Wiesen D, and Schmidt AH. (2024) “Reducing Registry Members' Attrition When Invited to Donate: Evidence From a Large Stem Cell Registry.” American Journal of Health Economics, doi: 10.1086/730331

Link: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/730331

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