News stardom : Kolkata, 15th October 2023: To raise awareness about the significance of blood stem cell donation and motivate young individuals to register as potential lifesavers, DKMS BMST Foundation India collaborated with the Rotary District 3291 to spread awareness about the importance of stem cell transplantation for blood cancer and blood disorder patients.
Distinguished members from Rotary District 3291, namely RC Calcutta Visionaries, RC Calcutta Maidan, RC Calcutta Mayfair, RC Kolkata Urbana, RC Calcutta Yuvis, BNI Prudent and Young Indians (Yi) came together to register as potential stem cell donors in order to inspire the youth to become potential lifesavers by enrolling in the global registry of stem cell donors.
In India, where over 1,00,000 people succumb to blood cancer annually, yet only 30% of patients needing a stem cell transplant can find HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen-tissue type)matching donors within their families. More than 70% of patients are looking for unrelated donors, but due to lack of awareness, only 0.04% of the Indian population is registered as potential stem cell donors. Given the significance of ethnic matching, the probability of Indian patients finding a suitable stem cell donor is significantly higher when seeking donors among fellow Indians.
Underscoring the pressing scarcity of blood stem cell donors in the nation, Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India, said, “Every five minutes, a new case of blood cancer or a blood disorder, such as Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia, is diagnosed in India. The availability of compatible blood stem cell donors remains a significant challenge for Indian patients needing life-saving transplants. Presently, with over 41 million registered donors worldwide, India accounts for just 0.6 million. Numerous patients are in desperate need of a suitable stem cell donor for life-saving transplants. Our objective, in collaboration with Rotary Club 3291, is to enhance awareness about blood stem cell donation amongst various sections of the society.”
The event’s chief guest was District Governor, Rtn Hira Lal Yadav, Rotary District 3291, who said, “I am delighted that Rotary District 3291 has joined forces with DKMS-BMST to spread awareness about peripheral stem cell donation. Through our work at The Rotary, we emphasize that serving others is a way of life. By caring for and serving others, we hope to impact society sustainably. We highly value DKMS-BMST contributions in aiding blood cancer and blood disorder patients. We firmly believe that if we ignite the spark within us, we can look beyond ourselves and give someone a second chance at life. There is nothing more extraordinary than the act of saving a life. As an institution, we take great pride in being part of an initiative that raises public awareness about the significance of registering as a blood stem cell donor and its profound impact on a patient’s life.”
Dr. Jeevan Kumar, Sr. Consultant-Department of Clinical Hematology and BMT, Tata Medical Center, Kolkata graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour, he said, “Donating stem cells that are present in blood is similar to donating platelets. To donate stem cells, certain characteristics of the donor and patients should match. This is called HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen). However, only a fraction of patients finds an HLA-matched donor within their family, and for about 70-80% of the cases, patients look for a matched ‘unrelated’ donor. Every year, about 65,000 new searches are initiated worldwide for an unrelated matching donor, but in India, only 0.04% of people are registered as potential stem cell donors. India has one of the highest ratios of searches that do not result in transplantation. This gap can be bridged only when more and more people from different ethnicities in India are a part of the donor registry maintained by organizations such as DKMS-BMST.”
Shia, a seven- year-old thalassemia survivor, attended the event along with her family. Shia’s battle with thalassemia began when she was just nine-months old. The doctors informed her parents that she would require regular blood transfusions for the rest of her life, a prospect that was both devastating and painful to witness. However, her parents were determined to find a permanent cure. A glimmer of hope appeared when they learned about a potential treatment for thalassemia involving a blood stem cell transplant. In the span of a year, Shia’s life took a positive turn when a selfless 29-year-old stem cell donor, Debojyoti, a techie from Bengaluru, was found to be a match for Shia. He donated his blood stem cells and gave Shia a second chance at life.
Rtn Deepak Agarwal, President, Rotary Club of Calcutta Visionaries, the lead club, said – “It was surprising to see such lack of awareness on such an important issue. We decided that it was the need of the hour. I urge the young brigade specially, to understand the importance of Blood Stem Cell Transplant in savings lives, and come forward and register themselves as potential donors. After all, it is them who will carry the torch a long way.”
“We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Rotary District 3291 and its devoted members for their invaluable assistance in coordinating this registration drive. DKMS-BMST remains dedicated to conducting multiple awareness and registration campaigns in collaboration with esteemed clubs, with a special emphasis on engaging the younger generation. Their ongoing participation in the registry significantly enhances the chances of finding matching donors for patients like Shia, who are in desperate need,” added Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS-BMST.
Today, more than 41 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centres and registries, of which only 0.04% are Indians. This situation can only be changed by recruiting more potential blood stem cell donors from India. Registration takes only 5 minutes of your time. If you’re between 18 and 55 years and in general good health, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by ordering your home swab kit against blood cancer and other blood disorders, such as thalassemia and aplastic anaemia. Our aim is to improve the situation of patients suffering from blood cancer and other blood disorders in India and throughout the world, by raising awareness about blood stem cell transplantation and registering potential blood stem cell donors. By doing this, DKMS-BMST provides patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant with a second chance at life. DKMS-BMST is a joint venture of two reputed non-profit organizations: BMST (Bangalore Medical Services Trust) and DKMS, one of the largest international blood stem cell donor centres in the world. For more information, please visit dkms-bmst.org