Kerala youth donates his blood stem cells to save life of a blood cancer patient.
BENGALURU / March 22, 2022: DKMS BMST Foundation India, a Bengaluru-based non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and rare blood diseases, has helped save the life of a Bangladeshi youth battling blood cancer by finding a matching stem cell donor from Kerala from the registry of over 60,000 potential donors that it maintains in India. In an emotional moment, the patient and donor – both in their twenties – met each other for the first time at the Tata Medical Center in Kolkata where the stem cell transplant was conducted
The 22-year-old blood cancer patient Atanu Kishor from Bangladesh had a difficult teenage life after he was diagnosed with blood cancer and had to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy. Atanu’s family was advised by local doctors to take him to India for treatment. The family, along with the patient, travelled to India and consulted Dr. Reghu KS, Senior Consultant, Dept. of Paediatric Haemato Oncology & Cellular Therapies, at Tata Medical Center, Kolkata.
Said Atanu’s mother Madhabi Rani: “We were very worried about the health of my son but got a ray of hope after meeting Dr. Reghu KS. He told us that treatment for blood cancer exists in the form of a blood stem cell transplant. That’s when our search began to find an unrelated blood stem cell match from registered donors around the country. With the help of doctors, we were lucky to find a match in a year’s time from the stem cell registry maintained by DKMS BMST Foundation India. My son underwent a successful blood stem cell transplantation and got a second chance at life. I become very emotional thinking he will now live a normal life like any other healthy individual.”
As per international guidelines, the identity of both the blood stem cell donor and recipient are kept anonymous for two years. After this, depending on their interest, they are introduced to each other. Atanu and his family crossed the border from Bangladesh to reach Kolkata where they met Kishor Dev, the 29-year-old donor and lifesaver from Kannur district in Kerala.
Talking about his journey of becoming a lifesaver, Kishore Dev, who works as a software developer, said: “I registered as a potential blood stem cell donor with DKMS-BMST in 2017. After a year of registration, I was found to be a match for a blood cancer patient. I had no idea about who the patient was, but I knew that somewhere in the world, a precious life will be saved because of me. When I met Atanu for the first time, I went numb with emotions. Being able to save the life of someone is a feeling beyond words. It can only be experienced, not described. I am glad that organizations like DKMS-BMST are working hard to provide patients of blood cancer or other blood disorders a second chance at life. I am proud to be a part of this noble cause. It seems as if my life has been fulfilled.”
Every five minutes, someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer and other blood disorders. Many such patients need a blood stem cell transplant to survive. For a successful stem cell transplant, an HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) matched donor is required. In 30% of the cases, an HLA-matched donor is available within the family; for the rest, one needs to search for a matched ‘unrelated’ donor.
Said Dr. Mammen Chandy, Director, TATA Medical Center, Kolkata: “Every year, about 70,000 donor searches are initiated worldwide for an unrelated matching donor. Due to the lack of a matching donor, 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 become a part of the donor registry maintained by organizations such as DKMS-BMST.”
Urging people to register as a potential blood stem-cell donor, Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India, Bengaluru, said: “For most blood cancer patients, a blood stem cell transplant is the key to survival. For them, the search for a matching blood stem cell donor is a race against time. Our focus is always on registering as many committed donors as possible. So far, DKMS-BMST has registered over 60,000 potential donors from India and helped 52 patients with a second chance at life.”
More than 39 million potential unrelated donors are listed worldwide with stem-cell donor centers and registries. Out of these, only 0.04% are from India, making it harder to find a match for Indian patients of blood cancer. This situation can be changed only if many more Indians, especially the youth, step forward to register themselves as potential blood stem cell donors.
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Anyone between 18 and 50 years of age who is in general good health can take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by ordering a home swab kit at www.dkms-bmst.org/register
About DKMS BMST Foundation India
A non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and rare blood diseases, such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia. In line with the government’s national policy for rare diseases, we aim to improve the situation of patients suffering from blood cancer and other rare blood diseases 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.