A strong symbol of hope for blood cancer and blood disorder patients worldwide in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant
London, May 10, 2022 – Today, DKMS celebrates a significant milestone in the organisation’s history: 100,000 second chances at life provided to a patient with blood cancer or another blood disorder.
For the international charity, this wonderful accomplishment is far more than a number or a benchmark: every single second chance at life represents a patient and their personal story. These are the stories of people, both young and old, of their families and friends, stories of shattering sadness and fear, and stories of hope and overwhelming joy as well as another 100,000 donor stories.
There are stories of patients like Esha. Esha had been rushed to the doctors in May 2021 after losing her appetite, becoming lethargic and developing bruises on her legs. After a number of blood tests, her parents were given the devastating news that she had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at the age of 4.
South Asians are heavily underrepresented on the register and it is much more difficult for patients with a diverse ethnic heritage to find a matching donor. Currently only 2% of the UK population are registered as potential blood stem cell donors, and just 13% of those on the register come from minority ethnic backgrounds. This means patients from minority ethnic communities have low chance of finding a matching stem cell donor.
Stories like Esha’s, along with all the other stories of the 100,000 second chances at life, are a powerful reminder of the impact the organisation’s work has on patients, their families and friends.
“It is what motivates us every day in our life-saving mission,” said Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global Chief Executive Officer at DKMS. “Every 27 seconds someone in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer. Every year thousands of families hear the heartbreaking news that their loved one will need a blood stem cell transplant to survive. 100,000 second chances at life are thus a strong signal of hope for all those facing the toughest moment of their lives.”
Katharina Harf, Chairwoman of the DKMS Foundation Board said, “In 1991 we founded DKMS in honour of my mother, who had leukemia. Her legacy which still inspires us today is that every patient in need of a blood stem cell transplant finds a matching donor who can give them a second chance at life. In the past 31 years we have worked tirelessly to make this vision come true. We are proud to announce that this year we have reached an incredible milestone: DKMS donors have provided 100,000 second chances at life to patients all over the world."
"It is my big dream that every patient has that chance and that other families do not have to feel the devastating pain of losing a loved one.”
The work of registering donors and facilitating transplants is inherently a team effort. Every life saved is due to the collaboration, dedication, and passion of every single individual involved along the way. Every donor who has given a patient a second chance, every one of the 11 million potential donors who are registered with DKMS and provide hope to patients in need, and the countless volunteers who are dedicated to creating a world without blood cancer.
“We also honor all patients and their families and friends as well as all physicians and nurses, who take the best possible care of patients and who are such an essential part of this process. Only together we can make a big impact in the lives of patients across the globe,” said Dr. Elke Neujahr.
100,000 second chances at life is also an impressive achievement that only becomes more impressive, when considering that it took DKMS 24 years to reach 50,000 second chance at life in 2015. Within just seven years the organisation has now doubled that number.
DKMS was only able to accomplish this so quickly because the organisation expanded its footprint and is now active in seven countries on five continents. Every day, 21 DKMS donors from Germany, the USA, Poland, the UK, Chile, South Africa, and India, where DKMS operates together with BMST, donate blood stem cells for patients all over the world. Blood stem cell donations from DKMS donors haven given people in 57 countries a second chance at life.
One crucial factor in the success of a blood stem cell transplant is the degree of match between the tissue characteristics of donor and patient. Since tissue characteristics vary according to both genetics and region, the organisation is doing everything possible to register as many donors of different ethnicities and nationalities as possible. Having a genetically diverse database of donors is necessary to ensure that all patients have the chance to find their match.
The only effective way to address blood cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders is with a macro perspective. Innovative scientific research is a key factor to improve the healing chances for patients.
“We constantly optimise our own work, conduct our own clinical trials and invest in research projects on an international level to make blood stem cell transplants a lasting success for patients. Our research focuses on three key areas: the optimisation of our donor pool, advancing donor selection, and improving cell therapy and transplantation,” says Dr. Alexander Schmidt, Global Chief Medical Officer at DKMS.
To improve the situation of patients in low- and middle-income countries, DKMS has also expanded its efforts to increase the access to transplantation.
“If we want to prevent families from suffering the loss of a loved one, we need to help, where help is needed! For the second chance at life, we cross borders, collaborate globally and leave no stone unturned to help patients. Every patient with blood cancer or a life-threatening blood disease deserves that chance. Thus, we have established several support programmes to increase the access to transplantation for patients living in emerging countries,” highlights Dr. Elke Neujahr.
Reaching 100,000 second chances at life is an incredible accomplishment. However, the organisation’s work will not be done until every patient in need of a transplant gets that second chance.
With that in mind DKMS wants to encourage the public to become part of its lifesaving movement by registering as a potential lifesaver today.
“It is my vision for DKMS that we will have 20 million donors registered with us and that we will be active in 20 countries by 2030 to celebrate 200,000 second chance at life,” Neujahr says in conclusion.