DKMS and Be The Match support children with blood cancer in South Africa
Today, on International Childhood Cancer Day 2022, DKMS and Be The Match, USA, launch their joint pilot program for pediatric patients from South Africa suffering from blood cancer and life-threatening blood disorders such as severe aplastic anemia. With “DKMS State Patient Support, in Partnership with Be The Match” the two non-profit organizations will enable eight state patients aged between 0 and 18 years in need of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant from an unrelated volunteer donor to receive life-saving treatment.
While South Africa’s public healthcare system fully covers the cost for the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for patients who have found a matching donor within their family, patients who rely on a stranger to donate their cells are faced with two major challenges in their journey to transplantation: A matching donor has to be found and they need to pay for the donor-related costs. DKMS and Be The Match will bridge this gap for patients without medical aid who cannot afford the donor-related costs that are not covered by the public health care system to provide them with a second chance at life.
“As an international organization committed to the fight against blood cancer we have expanded our mission to improve the access to transplantation for patients in low- and middle-income countries. In South Africa, costs are a main barrier for patients in need of an unrelated donor. Partnering with Be The Match on this program we can alleviate this financial burden for state patients,” says Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global Chief Executive Officer at DKMS.
"Be The Match is committed to our global vision of equal outcomes for all. When a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor may be the best, or only, hope of a cure, it's partnerships like these that bring donors and patients together to save lives," adds Amy Ronneberg, Be The Match's Chief Executive Officer.
Participating state transplant centers
Professor Alan Davidson, Head of Oncology at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital; Alana James, Executive Director, DKMS Africa; and Mitzi Franken, Head of Nursing at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
There is both capacity and skill available in South Africa’s state transplant centers. Patients who will be transplanted under the program will be treated by experienced pediatric oncologists in two modern clinics, the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in Pretoria (Prof. D. Reynders) and the UCT, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, in Cape Town (Prof. A. Davidson).
"South Africa is home to over 60 million people, and the burden of disease is no different to the rest of the world. Based on these numbers, at least 250 pediatric blood stem cell transplants should be performed each year, although sadly, less than 30 transplants are done annually in children. One of the major reasons for this is the current strain on the public healthcare sector and lack of funding and support for the search and treatment using unrelated donors. We would like to thank DKMS and Be The Match for this much-needed project,” says Professor David Reynders, Head of Clinical Unit Pediatric Oncology at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
“We believe that efforts to expand access to transplantation to more South African children need to be prioritized,” says pediatric oncologist at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Prof Alan Davidson.