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Public Cord Blood Banking Works For Everyone

Each year, thousands of patients are diagnosed with a disease that might have to be treated with a hematopoietic or blood stem cell transplant. Traditionally, these stem cells have come from bone marrow donation, from either a relative or from an unrelated volunteer donor. Most patients, however, have no relative that matches their HLA tissue type. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 patients cannot find a donor that is a sufficiently close match among the millions of volunteer donors listed by registries around the world. Other patients don't have enough time to find an unrelated bone marrow donor due to the rapid progression of their disease. Cord blood is now another option.

In October 2002, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) published an extensive report on the government-funded National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), a registry of people throughout the U.S. who are willing to donate their bone marrow, if it is a match, for anyone who may need it. The report addressed concerns regarding "...the extent to which the Registry provides equality of opportunity for patients of all racial and ethnic groups to find compatible (matched) unrelated donors, the extent to which it is utilized by those in need of stem cell transplantation, and the effectiveness of the management of the donor centers." The complete report may be viewed in the link below.

2002 GAO Report: Possible Underutilization of National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (PDF)
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Public cord blood banking increases the chances that patients  who might benefit from a stem cell transplant can get one and get it quickly. Currently, with more than 50,000 cord blood donations, the New York Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program can, on average, find an HLA-matched (4/6 or better) cord blood graft for approximately 85 percent of patients who request a search. The actual percentage of HLA matches varies with the ethnic group of the patient and suitability of the unit as a graft varies with the patient’s weight. The NCBP now collects cord blood in eight affiliated hospitals: six in the New York metropolitan area, one in Fairfax County, Virginia and one in Cleveland, Ohio [See About Us and Collection Sites] and will add one or two more over the coming year. We have a goal to reach 100,000 cord blood units over the next five years.

If most patients can find a cord blood unit already, why do we need so many more units?

At present, some patients must still make do with a cord blood unit that is not optimal, either because of a low cell dose and/or a low HLA match grade. Much larger inventories are needed so that all patients, including ethnic minority patients, can find a cord blood unit that will be optimal for them. This is why we are expanding our own Program and why we have worked to encourage federal funding to help all qualified public cord blood banks in the U.S. build a large national inventory of cord blood units. Federal funding, passed into law in December 2005 and available since 2006 will help build a national inventory (NCBI) totaling 150,000 of high quality, ethnically diverse cord blood units.

[See NYBC's earlier position on why this legislation is critical for patients].

 

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Debra Washington with her son

Debra Washington donated her son's cord blood to the NCBP when he was born at New York Presbyterian Hospital in February 2003.

 

Cord blood is an investigational product not licensed by the FDA.