More than 200 patients' lives could be saved each year following recommendations published in a new report, focusing on improving the availability and quality of stem cell transplants in the UK.
The report recommends increasing the UK umbilical cord blood inventory to a target of 50,000 banked units. More than 400 patients each year in the UK with conditions like leukaemia are unable to receive a stem cell transplant from adult bone marrow or cord blood because they lack a suitable matched unrelated donor, according to a news release about the report.
The report also highlights the benefits of greater engagement with black and minority ethnic donors to increase their representation on donor registries. Currently only 30 to 40 percent of patients from these groups find a matched unrelated donor, compared with around 90 percent of white, Northern European patients.
Other recommendations included improving the performance of UK based stem cell registries; accrediting and centralising stem cell transplant centres; and standardising data collection.
Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, said: 'I very much welcome this high quality review of bone marrow and umbilical cord blood programmes. The recommendations should mean patients needing a transplant get stem cell units as quickly as possible and could mean more patients receiving treatment'.
Lynda Hamlyn, the Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, which led the study, said: 'I am very proud of the report we produced, and committed to continuing to work closely with everyone involved to explore how we can deliver these changes'.
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, which established the world's first bone marrow register, said: 'The publication of this report today is a major step forward and great news for patients. If we are to fulfil Shirley Nolan's vision of a matching donor for every patient needing a transplant, we need a coordinated and strategic, UK-wide approach. We look forward to further details from Government about how it will be progressed'.
The report was commissioned by the Department of Health and involved over forty scientists, clinicians, economists, patient representatives and international experts.