DKMS is leading in this field with an advanced typing program. The more parameters that we can include in the typing profile of our donors, the faster it is for search coordinators to find the most suitable donor for their patients.
In order to maintain the highest HLA typing standard and to remain a world leader, we invest in our own research, steadily optimize our existing processes and stay abreast of the latest scientific findings. We will always strive to provide the most efficient and detailed donor selection process for transplant and search coordinators around the globe.
The reason for doing this is simple: Because every single day counts. We want to ensure that every patient in need of a transplant is able to find the most suitable donor as quickly as possible.
Reducing the search time
For patients with common HLA characteristics, there can sometimes be many close matches on the database. While this is of course a positive outcome, it can also mean that it takes longer to determine which donor is the best possible match for the patient.
To reduce the time between the initial donor search and the transplant and also to decrease donor drop-out during Confirmatory Typing (CT) and workup, DKMS launched the Availability Program. As part of this project, we contact younger donors with common HLA characteristics. These donors are generally the most likely to be requested by search coordinators.
We ask these registered donors to fill out an online health questionnaire and to confirm their willingness and availability to donate, in the event that they were to be identified as a potential match for a patient. In the health questionnaire, we ask donors to update their contact data, to inform DKMS about longer planned absences (e.g., due to studies abroad) and to answer a compact version of the CT questionnaire.
We then continue to contact these donors every two years to remind them to update their details. The updated details, including the medical details and “last contact date,” are then included in their donor profile. This additional information allows search coordinators to make a more informed decision when selecting the best possible donor.
Including an online health questionnaire in our quality projects helped to increase availability at CT level from an average of 82% before the introduction of the project to 93% for donors who took part in any of our quality projects.
Increasing the chances of finding a match for patients with rare HLA characteristics
For patients with rare HLA characteristics, finding a matching donor can often be a long and difficult process. To improve all patients’ chances in the search for the best possible match, DKMS introduced the Ancestry program in Germany. The aim of the project is to continue to diversify the database and increase the number of donors with rare HLA characteristics.
To make this happen, we contact registered DKMS donors with rare HLA characteristics and encourage them to motivate their relatives to register as donors. Since this project began in Germany in 2005, over 20,000 new donors have registered as a direct result of the project and over 400 of them have gone on to provide a patient in need of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant with a second chance at life.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus for people of all ages. Once infected, the body retains the virus for life, although a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the virus from causing illness or problems. However, a CMV infection can cause life-threatening complications for patients in need of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, especially as they have weakened immune systems. It is essential to establish the CMV status of a donor in order to prevent an outbreak of the virus and to ensure that a transplantation has the best possible chance of success. This means that it is an important parameter in the initial donor selection process.
In 2017, the DKMS Life Science Lab developed a new and innovative approach to CMV testing, which allowed the CMV status to be determined via a buccal swab. It was the first time that this had been done anywhere in the world. As a result, all new DKMS donors are now tested for CMV IgG when they register with us. Previously, this was only able to be done via a blood sample at the CT (Confirmatory Typing) stage.
Since then, we have also started a project to determine the CMV status of many of our donors who registered prior to 2017. In the last two years, we have contacted over 700,000 registered donors and have been able to now test 42% of them for CMV and add this to their donor profile. The CMV status is now included in the profile of over three million DKMS donors.