STORY INLINE POST
Bone marrow transplants between genetically compatible people can cure up to 75 diseases, the most common being leukemia, which represents one of the main causes of child death in Mexico. This is good news, but that is not the whole story; only 30% of patients with blood diseases can find a potential donor within their family, which means that over 70% depend on a potential unrelated donor to have a new chance at life.
With this overview, it is a little easier to understand the importance of demystifying stem cell donation and the impact of spreading the culture of donation in Mexico, where it tends to be extremely low. We need to act to drive the change we want to see in the world. But how do we spread our message and bring about change? By working together.
We can do only so much by ourselves. There are many challenges around stem cell donations besides promoting the culture of donation. Just to name a few: the need to bring the treatment closer to patients in remote locations, ensuring the expense coverage of unrelated donor transplants so that all patients can have access to this treatment, emotional support for adult patients and caregivers, wide ethnic diversity, and limited public policies focused on care for patients with blood diseases in our country.
The availability of platforms that gather hematologists, oncologists, immunologists, organizations, and various health professionals from transplant units throughout Mexico to exchange experiences, strategies, and best practices in unrelated donor stem cell transplants in the country has increased considerably. Today, we can find different platforms that address the importance of amplifying the conversation around bone marrow transplants, such as the National Congress on Stem Cell Transplantation, but there is an important gap between these spaces and the availability of learning platforms.
Be The Match®, the most diverse registry of potential stem cell donors in the world, in alliance with organizations like: Here Nobody Surrenders IAP (ANSeR), the Mexican Association to Help Children with Cancer (AMANC), as well as the SOHMA organization, JouP and the Teresa de Jesús Development Promotion Foundation IAP, opened the first edition of the NMDP Forum, a space that brought together medical specialists with international and national experience, who leveraged this platform to boost visibility and to share their knowledge and perspectives on cell therapy.
This forum was launched as a space for sharing, listening, and learning. It opened a new way to connect by encouraging an open dialogue and discussion between different actors who understand the challenges and the journey that is still ahead around stem cell transplantation and donation.
Different institutions and organizations are working every day to save lives through cellular therapy, disseminating continuous medical education, optimizing the processes that allow a physician to offer bone marrow transplantation to their patients, raising financial resources, promoting laws to accelerate progress, and encouraging initiatives to find potential donors committed to saying “yes” when they receive the call.
Particularly, the unique ethnic diversity of Mexicans enriches our genetics, but, at the same time, implies a great challenge for patients seeking a match in a potential unrelated donor. Bringing treatment closer to patients will open the door to improving specialized medical care and capacity by reducing waiting times and making it possible for more patients to receive treatment. This is important because the process from the time an unrelated transplant is requested until it is performed takes approximately three months. This is often too long for patients who require the transplant immediately. The situation is even more aggravated when the potential donor is not in the same country since the timing increases, which results in many donations not happening.
This is why everyone’s support and collaboration are valuable, from doctors to hospitals to humans around the world and companies. It’s a fact that any organization, no matter its size, any person, no matter their background, can have an impact. Alliances are key to building trust in data quality and integrity, by capitalizing on the combined strengths of the health community. It is important to work closely to create a roadmap that makes a life-saving difference for patients around the world.
The first edition of the NMDP Forum paved the way. But it can’t be an isolated effort. We need to stand together to give patients who are battling blood cancers or blood diseases a second chance in life through developing innovative ways of recruiting potential new donors via different platforms.
We seek to use facts to influence the decision to register as a potential donor. Our objective is to make the population aware and move the needle. It is our job to break down barriers and expand access to treatment for more patients.
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