February 4th is marked as World Cancer day every year. This day is observed to spread awareness about the disease and its increasing burden. In line with the theme for this year “Create a future without cancer. The time to act is now”, DKMS BMST Foundation India, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a second chance at life to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in India makes an appeal to people to come forward and register as potential blood stem cell donors.
On World Cancer Day 2021, DKMS is also celebrating a milestone of providing more than 90,000 blood cancer patients across 57 countries with a second chance at life, since it was founded almost 30 years ago in 1991. DKMS is an international non-profit organization that helps provide patients with lifesaving blood stem cell transplants. DKMS has presence in India, Germany, USA, Poland, UK, Chile, and South Africa.
Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India, says “DKMS is proud to be the world’s leading donor center, accounting for nearly 30% of the total donor pool. While, this is a global milestone, when it comes to India, the fact is that the Indian donors are highly underrepresented in the global database. This is why it becomes difficult for doctors to find a matching blood stem cell donor for Indian patients. While DKMS has registered over 10.5 million donors and has provided over 90,000 patients with a second chance at life globally, it is critical to highlight that only over 43,000 Indian donors are part of this donor pool.”
In India, every year, over one lakh people are diagnosed with a form of blood cancer and it remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among children. Most people are unaware that a life-threatening disease like blood cancer can be treated and in most of the cases, a stem cell transplant is the patient’s only chance for survival. For instance, 15-year-old Maheer from Gujarat, India, is one of the blood cancer survivors who had received a lifesaving blood stem cell donation in 2012. He was able to find his matching blood stem cell donor, Dr. Sita, who hails from Germany. Today, he leads a normal, healthy and happy life. He is in grade 9th and loves to travel, read and swim!
Today, more than 37 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem cell donor centers and registries, of which only 0.03% are Indians. Currently, in India, the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about blood stem cell transplant and the importance of registering as a potential blood stem cell donor. The entire procedure is safe and secure. Once the blood stem cells are collected from a donor, they are infused into the patient through a transplant process which then moves through the bloodstream and settles in the bone marrow. These new blood stem cells begin to increase in numbers and produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, resulting in the replacement of the patient’s diseased cells and that’s how a blood cancer patient gets a second chance at life. This situation can only be improved by recruiting many more potential stem cell donors from India.
This World Cancer Day, you can take a pledge to become a potential lifesaver. Registration takes only 5 minutes of your time. If you’re between 18 and 50 years and in good health, take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by ordering your home swab kit at www.dkms-bmst.org/register.