— March 14, 2017
Written Testimony Submitted by National Marrow Donor Program CEO Dr. Jeffrey Chell Outlines Urgent Need to Diversify Cord Blood and Bone Marrow Banks to Reach More Ethnic Groups, Older Patients
WASHINGTON — According to The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP)/Be The Match®—which operates the nation’s Be The Match Registry® of potential adult volunteer marrow donors and donated umbilical cord blood units—medical advances have expanded the indications for transplant to include curative options for diseases such as sickle cell disease and have extended the age at which patients seeking curative therapies for blood cancers and other blood disorders may receive one.
In his written testimony provided to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, NMDP Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeffrey Chell called upon Congress for a modest funding increase in FY2018, so that the donor registry could be expanded to reach greater numbers of ethnically diverse patients, as well as the growing Medicare-aged patient population.
“With the growth in knowledge from each transplant, we now are able to successfully transplant patients well into their 70s,” Dr. Chell stated in his testimony. “The increase in the number of transplants for older Americans, and minority patients, significantly increases the need for more volunteer donors and cord blood units. While NMDP/Be The Match facilitated transplants have grown by 200 percent overall and 250 percent for minorities since 2006, there is more work we can do in this area too.”
Bone marrow and stem cell transplants remain the only curative therapy option for a wide range of blood cancers and disorders. Today, physicians are able to treat patients with cancers and pre-cancers, such as leukemia, Myelodysplasia, and lymphomas; bone marrow failure disorders, such as aplastic anemia and immunodeficiency syndromes; and genetic diseases, such as sickle cell disease.
A $5 million funding increase for the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, as well as $5 million additional for the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI), would allow for continued expansion of the registry – essential for patients whose survival depends on finding a match. During the last 20 years, the one-year survival rate for transplant patients has increased from just over 40 percent to 70 percent.
“For each $1 million the Congress adds to the Program, 10,000 donors will be added to the registry. For each $1 million it adds to the NCBI, an additional 667 cord blood units will be collected and stored,” Dr. Chell explained in his testimony. “The funds for the Program and the NCBI allow us to continue to improve the chances of every American needing a transplant to find a match, and provides the critical infrastructure that allows NCBI cord blood units to be used to save lives.”
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match is the global leader in providing a cure to patients with life-threatening blood and marrow cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as other diseases. The nonprofit organization manages the world’s largest registry of potential marrow donors and cord blood units, connects patients to their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant, educates health care professionals and conducts research through its research program, CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®),so more lives can be saved. NMDP/Be The Match also provides patient support and enlists the community to join the Be The Match Registry, contribute financially and volunteer.