In its 30th Year, DKMS expands scope of activities beyond registering unrelated blood stem cell donors to increase access to transplantation for patients in need across the country.
BENGALURU, India, Sept. 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — DKMS, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer, inaugurated the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit in memory of Mechtild Harf. The non-profit organization Sankalp India Foundation operates the new unit with the medical advice support of Cure2Children on the premises of the non-profit Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital (BMJH) in Bengaluru. This state-of-the-art facility will cater to treatment of about 120 children suffering from blood cancer or rare blood disorders such as Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia.
Every 5 minutes, someone in India is diagnosed with blood cancer or other blood disorders. With over 42 million carriers, the country is also known as the Thalassemia capital of the world. As it is a widespread hereditary condition, more than 10,000 children are born with the severe anemia every year. Patients suffering from the disease need regular blood transfusion. The most effective treatment is a blood stem cell transplant, ideally at an early age. The need for transplants in children is therefore extremely high while there are not enough capacities in hospitals to provide the little patients with medical treatment and necessary care.
In its mission to improve the access to transplantation for patients in need, DKMS has funded the new BMT Centre with 5.46 Cr INR (~6,30,000 EUR / 7,40,000 USD). “The only effective way to address blood cancer and other life-threatening blood diseases is with a macro perspective. 30 years after our foundation, we are therefore expanding the scope of our activities. In addition to registering as many potential blood stem cell donors as possible, we extend our support to patients whose geographic location or socio-economic status impedes the access to transplantation. Our aim is to help build a better base for treatment and to reduce the financial burden on patients in need by contributing to the transplantation costs. It is a milestone for our organization that the BMT Unit in memory of Mechtild Harf opens its doors today for children in need,” says Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global Chief Executive Officer, DKMS.
One of the patients who received funding from DKMS within the organization’s support programme is seven-year-old Shrinidhi. Sharing her experience, Shrinidhi’s mother says: “After watching my son battle Thalassemia for all these years, I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do. But with the help of DKMS and Sankalp India Foundation, I was able to donate my blood stem cells and save my son’s life. For years we have lived in fear and uncertainty, but now we can live like a normal, happy family.”
The BMJH-Sankalp BMT unit in Memory of Mechtild Harf Supported by Cure2Children is located on a dedicated floor on the premises of the hospital. The facilities include a BMT unit with 10 beds equipped with HEPA filters ensuring a protective environment for patients. For critical patients, an Intensive Care Unit with three beds has been set up. An isolation room, a pre-transplant day care area with a play area for the children as well as a training and education facility are also part of the centre. The molecular laboratory on the same floor will enable speedy and cutting-edge genetic diagnostics, transplant genetics and pathogen detection and reduce the costs per transplant as these investigations can be carried out inhouse. The centre is also home to the central referral pathology lab for Sankalp which will cater to the needs of thalassemia care and management across the country.
“We will be able to treat about 120 children at the centre each year. State-of-the-art infrastructure in combination with a dedicated team of highly-trained specialists and expert international visiting consultants will ensure that we can deliver the best possible clinical outcomes for our patients. This centre together with our BMT Centre in Ahmedabad will take total beds for transplantation to 14, thus enabling us to move forward with our goal of ‘Thalassemia Free India’,” says Lalith Palmar, President of the Sankalp India Foundation.
The Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist, Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist and Medical Coordinator at the Cure2Children Foundation, Dr Lawrence Faulkner, said: “Blood stem cell transplantation is a complex procedure that requires specialised care. A highly committed multidisciplinary core team of 18 specialists will ensure the little patients’ well being. In a joint effort with Sankalp, we were able to create a set-up in which doctors can perform high-quality treatment in a cost-effective way while all global standards and infection control are met.”
“To help blood cancer patients in India and register more potential Indian donors, DKMS partnered with Bangalore Medical Service Trust (BMST) and was launched in 2019 as DKMS BMST Foundation India. The launch of the BMT unit is yet another step in our mission to raise awareness on blood cancer and provide patients with a lifesaving treatment,” adds Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India.
Around one-third of patients find a matching blood stem cell donor within their own family. Yet, in most cases, patients cannot get access to treatment due to socio-economic and infrastructural barriers. DKMS firmly believes that the fight against blood disorders can only be won with a holistic approach. To address the challenges that thousands of families in India as well as other countries are faced with, DKMS has established several support programmes.
For more information about the DKMS support programmes for low- and middle-income countries, please visit: https://professional.dkms.org/services/support-programs/access-to-transplantation.
Mechtild Harf’s legacy:
The unit is named after Mechtild Harf, loving wife and mother of two children, who lost her battle against leukemia. On 16th September, the Harf family commemorated the 30th anniversary of her death. Peter Harf founded DKMS in 1991. Mechtild’s fate turned a small private initiative into the largest international network of blood stem cell donor centers in the world with sites in seven countries on five continents.
“Before my mother passed away, she made my father promise to continue the work we were doing. Ever since, we have worked tirelessly to fulfil our mission – to provide as many patients with blood disorders as possible with a second chance at life. As DKMS has grown and become an international organisation, we have extended our cause of registering unrelated blood stem cell donors to support patients in need – patients who would otherwise not have access to treatment. It means the world to me, that my mother’s name will be from now associated with the new Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. This is her legacy, she lives on in the work that we do,” says Katharina Harf, Vice Chairwoman of the DKMS Foundation Board.
DKMS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer. Founded in Germany in 1991 by Dr. Peter Harf, DKMS and the organization’s 1,000 employees have since relentlessly pursued the aim of giving as many patients as possible a second chance at life. With over 11 million registered donors, DKMS has succeeded in doing this almost 95,000 times to date by providing blood stem cell donations to those in need. This accomplishment has led to DKMS becoming the global leader in the facilitation of unrelated blood stem cell transplants. The organization has offices in Germany, the US, Poland, the UK, Chile and South Africa. In India, DKMS has founded the joint venture DKMS-BMST together with the Bangalore Medical Services Trust. International expansion and collaboration are key to helping patients worldwide because, like the organization itself, blood cancer knows no borders.
DKMS is also heavily involved in the fields of medicine and science, with its own research unit focused on continually improving the survival and recovery rate of patients. In its high-performance laboratory, the DKMS Life Science Lab, the organization sets worldwide standards in the typing of potential blood stem cell donors.
About DKMS BMST Foundation India:
A non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and other blood disorders, such as thalassemia and aplastic anemia. Our aim is to improve the situation of patients suffering from blood cancer and other blood disorders 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.
DKMS-BMST is a joint venture of two reputed non-profit organizations: BMST (Bangalore Medical Services Trust) and DKMS, one of the largest international blood stem cell donor centers in the world. For more information, please visit dkms-bmst.org
Sankalp India Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Bangalore that is working for the cause of voluntary blood donation and treating children with blood disorders like thalassemia since 2003. Sankalp has setup a network of 15 not-for-profit day care centres across the country where over 2000 children suffering from blood disorders receive equitable healthcare. Further the organization has been curing children through blood stem cell transplants on a non-profit basis in its two centres (Bangalore and Ahmedabad) since 2015 and has organized more than 350 transplants for children in India.
Cure2Children, is a non-profit organisation, with the mission of bringing cure to children with cancer and severe blood disorders. The organisation, based in Florence, Italy, operates globally. It was launched in 2007 by a group of parents who lost their child to cancer, in collaboration with a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, Dr. Lawrence Faulkner. Cure2Children has enabled the set-up of several Bone Marrow Transplant Units in low- and middle-income countries across South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. To date, close to 800 bone marrow transplants have been performed, primarily severe Thalassemia syndromes in children below the age of 18.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital Vasanthnagar is a 380-bed eds Tertial Super Specialty Referral Hospital offering a full range of all super specialties. BMJH is a registered charitable hospital created with the objective of providing medical facilities at affordable cost ever made on quality of healthcare.
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