If you can give a child a 75% chance of survival from cancer, will you do it?
Annually 120,000 Indians are diagnosed with blood cancer, of which the majority is children under 12 years of age. Almost all these children die because they have no access to affordable treatment. About 10,000 children are born with Thalassemia every year. A family has to spend Rs 1-2 lakhs annually to give the child necessary blood transfusions.
Stem cells from umbilical-cord blood and bone marrow donors can save 60 to 80% of children with Thalassemia and blood cancers. Transplant can be done only if there is HLA (Human Leucocyte Antigen) compatibility, meaning that the cells donors must be genetically compatible. Almost all HLA typing tests for patients in India, till recently, were done in the US. This can catapult the expenses by Rs 20-30 lakhs and also waste precious time, since the possibility of finding a compatible donor for an Indian is highest in India, as HLA matching is highly dependent on ethnicity.
A bank of stem cells in India would make it easier to find compatible samples within the country. Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre aims to enable quick and free or affordable treatment for Indian children suffering from blood cancer and Thalassemia.
About Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre
Jeevan is a registered public trust, operating out of Chennai. Understanding the need, Jeevan started a Public Cord Blood Bank in 2008 to store stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood. In 2013, Jeevan established a High Resolution HLA typing laboratory with the support of Tata Trust, United Way of Chennai, Consulate General of Australia and a loan from ICICI Bank. In 2015, a Bone Marrow Donor Registry was set up to enroll adult donors.
Till date has Jeevan stored 5,300 cord blood stem cell units, enrolled 2740 bone marrow donors, performed over 10,000 HLA typings and facilitated 33 transplants. One of the major beneficiaries of the free HLA typing is the Sankalp India Foundation, Bengaluru which provides treatment for children with Thalassemia.
Jeevan needs to scale up the Cord Blood inventory to 30,000 units and the Bone Marrow Donor Registry to 30,000 committed donors by 2020. The cost of processing each cord blood unit is Rs.30,000 while the HLA typing for each Bone Marrow Donor is Rs.7500.
Jeevan is trying to raise Rs.1000 from 50,000 Indians though its website www.millioncells.in to support this project of national importance.