With only 0.09 per cent of the population registered as stem cell donors, there is a need for more people to join the stem cell registry, says DKMS BMST Foundation India, pointing to the severe shortage of donors.

Patrick Paul, Chief Executive with the Foundation said, “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 a fighting chance.”

His words come against the backdrop of World Blood Cancer Day (May 28). DKMS-BMST is a joint venture of two non-profit organisations, BMST (Bangalore Medical Services Trust) and DKMS, one of the largest international blood stem cell donor centres in the world, a note from the Foundation said. The representatives urged healthy people between 18 – 55 years to register and volunteer to become a stem cell donor.

Over a lakh people from India are diagnosed annually with blood cancer and disorders such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia, a note from the Foundation said. “For many of these patients, a blood stem cell transplant is their only hope for survival. While conventional methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy are available, a blood stem cell transplant is often crucial for patients who are at high risk of relapse or who do not respond well to conventional treatments,” it added.

Dr Nitin Agarwal, Head of Donor Request Management at the Foundation, pointed out that many people in India are unaware of what blood stem cell donation involves or have incorrect beliefs about the process. “It’s crucial to understand that matching for stem cell transplants, is based on Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) characteristics, not just blood type. Education is key to dispelling these misconceptions and encouraging more people to register,” he said.