As an organization of physicians and scientists who treat and study blood and blood-related diseases and rely on an inventory of hematopoietic stem cell donors as well as umbilical cord blood units to facilitate life-saving transplants, and to further advance research in the field, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) supports the establishment of a federally funded national umbilical cord blood bank program.
Many patients are unable to receive potentially life-saving bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant because a suitable donor cannot be identified. Umbilical cord blood is an alternate source of progenitor cells that can be transplanted across partially mismatched HLA barriers, providing hematopoietic cells to those unable to find a perfect match. However, despite the promise of cord blood as a source of stem cells, the ease of cell collection, and its importance to sick children and ethnic minorities for whom peripheral blood or marrow donors may be hard to find, there is still an inadequate supply of stored cord blood available. A single centralized national database of usable cord blood units for adults and children will improve the likelihood that patients with otherwise fatal diseases will find a donor. In addition, increasing the inventory of larger cord blood units could also better serve the adult population. Furthermore, ASH believes that recent national security concerns related to potential nuclear terrorism make development of a system for banking cord blood important to strengthen homeland security.
ASH strongly supports the establishment of a single, centralized, readily accessible national donor registry that will strengthen the network of cord blood banks to meet the needs of patients with diseases that can only be cured by hematopoietic stem cell transplants. The registry must have a centralized web-based data system accessible to qualified transplant centers with real-time functions for cord blood unit data profiles and unit reservation. Like the current federally funded National Marrow Donor Program, the cord blood bank program should have the following core functions:
- A centralized web-based data system accessible to qualified transplant centers with real-time functions for cord blood unit data profiles and unit reservation;
- Research to improve the outcomes of patients undergoing cord blood transplants;
- Educational programs for clinicians to increase awareness of the clinical applications of cord blood transplants and long-term outcomes;
- A common set of standards and accreditation criteria for use with its partners to assure high quality and best clinical practice;
- Educational programs and materials for patients and potential donors to increase the donor pool, particularly for ethnic minorities that are currently underrepresented in banks;
- Research to identify the best collection and preservation techniques to minimize cell loss and optimal level of typing to ensure ideal access and use of cord units; and
- Recruitment and collection of an adequate and representative supply of cord blood units to meet the potential needs of an ethnically diverse population.
Founded in 1958, ASH represents nearly 13,000 clinicians and scientists committed to the study and treatment of blood and blood-related diseases. These diseases encompass malignant hematologic disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma; and non-malignant conditions including anemia and hemophilia; and congenital disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. In addition, hematologists have been pioneers in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, gene therapy, and many drugs for the prevention and treatment of heart attacks and strokes.
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