How the Australian Indian community can help cancer and thalassemia patients
Dr. P. Srinivasan MD
Every year, about 120,000 Indians living in India and another 400 across the world are diagnosed with blood cancer. Out of the 120,000, more than 30% are children. About 10,000 children are born every year with thalassemia.
Their only hope of a cure is stem cell transplantation from a matching bone marrow donor or umbilical cord blood. Matching of stem cells is a complicated process, as it depends on matching the ethnicity of recipient and donor.
Across the world and in India, successful transplantation of unrelated bone marrow or cord blood derived stem cells for blood cancer, and thalassemia patients are in the range of 60% to 80%. The chances of an Indian finding a match in international inventories is less than 10%, and it costs over $45,000 to import a single unit. The cost of treatment is prohibitive and the task daunting.
JEEVAN Blood Bank – For successful and affordable treatment
Less than 25% of these patients have a chance of finding a match among the siblings (most of the families have a single child). For many, finding a 10/10 match in the bone marrow donor registry is tough. In these situations, and in children, cord blood derived stem cells become the only option and complement the bone marrow donor registries. The chances of finding a match in an adequate size cord blood inventory will be close to 60%.
Understanding the need of finding a matching donor and keeping the treatment affordable, JEEVAN Blood Bank set up a Public Cord Blood Bank from donated cord blood in 2008 to provide quick and affordable access to matching stem cells from donated umbilical cord.
JEEVAN Blood Bank, India’s pioneer Blood Bank since 1995 is a not-for-profit organisation located in Chennai and is managed by a Board of Trustees. Currently, JEEVAN, largest active Public Cord Blood Bank in the SARC Region has over 5050 units of stem cells fully typed and ready for transplant.
To enhance the chances of finding a match, JEEVAN is working towards increasing the inventory to 50,000 over the next five years. In September 2015, JEEVAN started a Bone Marrow Donor Registry to enroll 50,000 committed adult bone marrow donors before December 2020.
Science of Stem Cell Transplantation:
Today, stem cell transplantation is often the only curative treatment for several hematologic diseases. However, for Indians living in India as well as overseas and diagnosed with such disorders, the outcome is not encouraging.
For a stem cell transplant to be successful, both patient and the donor should have identical or near identical “tissue types” (genetic markers), called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), which are inherited from parents and are determined by ethnic and geographic lineage.
Where blood stem cell registries are available, as in most of the developed world, the tissue types of potential donors, with their contact information, are stored in a searchable database. In most instances, the registry identifies a pool of potential donors, who are contacted and requested to donate additional units of blood for refining and narrowing down the HLA matching process. The final donor is selected through a systematic process and then subjected to elaborate and expensive medical procedures before blood stem cells are harvested for transplantation.
JEEVAN works closely with Obstetricians with ethical practices to promote the concept of cord blood donation, especially in tier 1 and tier 2 cities across India. One of the primary criteria is the logistics to transport the donated cord blood to Chennai within 40 hours. The whole process can be summarised as follows:
JEEVAN complies with the NETCORD international standards for the process and storage and hopes to complete the accreditation before 2017.
Currently, JEEVAN’s Public Cord Blood Bank is certified to ISO standards and NABH accredits the high-resolution HLA Laboratory. The HLA Lab participates in the UK NEQAS. JEEVAN makes all efforts to create a meaningful inventory, and this shows in the quality of stem cell units stored for patients.
Some of the other major objectives of JEEVAN are:
- To ensure easy and affordable access to life-saving treatment and also ensure sustainability of the programme.
- To offer HLA typing free or at an affordable cost to Indian patients and stop sending Indian DNA to US and Germany.
- To get internationally acceptable accreditation before 2017 to ensure acceptance of JEEVAN’s product by international centres.
How the Australian Indian community can help the patients have a better future?
Even a simple donations of AUD 150 from each Indian/South Asian families living in Australia will go a long way to helping at least 7 out of 10 South Asian patients with blood cancer / thalassemia. High-resolution HLA typing for bone marrow donor registry and cord blood donations can be performed. This will help find a matching donor/stem cell units for life-saving treatment and give hope for a healthy life.
Dr. P. Srinivasan M.D. (Medicine) is the co-founder of JEEVAN Blood Bank and Research Centre and JEEVAN Public Cord Blood Bank based in Chennai India and recently was in Sydney and Melbourne.
Dr. P. Srinivasan M.D.
Co-Founder & Chairman
+91 98400 83535