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India urgently needs stem cell donors to fight blood disorders, say experts


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Shillong, May 27: India is urgently in need of stem cell donors to fight blood cancer that kills over 70,000 lives every year, said experts on Monday ahead of World Blood Cancer Day.


World Blood Cancer Day is observed every year on May 28 to raise awareness about deadly cancer and other blood disorders, such as thalassemia and aplastic anaemia, which affect more than a lakh people in the country,


Although conventional methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy are available, a blood stem cell transplant is the only hope for survival for many blood cancer patients.


The health experts noted that every 5 minutes, someone in India gets diagnosed with blood cancer. Yet, the country faces a severe shortage of blood stem cell donors.


“Besides being the thalassemia capital of the world, India also has a high prevalence of blood cancers. Stem cell transplants are often the only curative option for these conditions, but finding a compatible stem cell match is difficult, especially in a country as genetically diverse as India,” Dr Rahul Bhargava, Principal Director & Chief BMT, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, told IANS.


“In India, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer or a severe blood disorder every five minutes. Despite the global registry having over 41 million donors, India has only about 0.6 million registered. Thousands of patients are in dire need of matching stem cell donors to undergo life-saving transplants. We need to expand our donor database significantly to provide these patients with a fighting chance,” added Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS BMST Foundation India — a non-profit.


The experts also lamented the lack of awareness and misconceptions about the process of stem cell donation that leads to hesitancy to register as a donor.


“Increased awareness and participation in donor registries are crucial to meeting this life-saving need. In simple terms, stem cell therapy uses stem cells to repair damaged tissues or organs or even to replace them entirely. It is used to treat some types of blood cancers, such as leukaemia and lymphoma,” Dr Rahul said.


The experts stated that matching for stem cell transplants is based on Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) characteristics, not just blood type. To become a potential stem cell donor, the criteria is to be a healthy adult aged between 18 and 55. (IANS)


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