India has mere 0.09% registered stem cell donors, experts call for more awareness

DKMS BMST Foundation India calls for increased awareness and registration to combat blood cancer as India faces severe shortage of stem cell donors

New Delhi:  Ahead of World Blood Cancer Day on May 28, DKMS BMST Foundation India is urging individuals to step up and register as blood stem cell donors.
With over 1.3 billion citizens, India is grappling with a severe shortage of blood stem cell donors, as only 0.09% of the population is registered as donors.
Each year, more than 1 lakh people in India receive diagnoses of blood cancer, thalassemia, and aplastic anemia. For many of these patients, a blood stem cell transplant represents their only hope for survival. While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are available treatments, a blood stem cell transplant is often essential for patients at high risk of relapse or those who do not respond well to conventional methods.
Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS BMST Foundation India, emphasizes the urgency, stating, “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.”
Dr. Nitin Agarwal, MD Transfusion Medicine and Head of Donor Request Management at DKMS BMST Foundation India, explains, “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.” 
To address these challenges, public education campaigns are essential. Misconceptions about the donation process often deter potential donors. Providing clear and accurate information can help individuals make informed decisions about registering as donors.
Kunal, a 24-year-old blood stem cell donor, shares her experience, “Donating blood stem cells was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The procedure was straightforward and caused minimal discomfort. I strongly encourage others to register as stem cell donors; it’s a safe process that can significantly impact someone’s life.”
Loni Lipsa, another donor at 23, echoes this sentiment, “One of the challenges was to get my parents’ permission to go ahead with the donation. Due to the lack of awareness, many people don’t know the importance of registering and, if given a chance, donating their stem cells. The thought of potentially saving someone’s life made every step worthwhile.”