Children with blood cancers or disorders such as leukaemia and aplastic anaemia often face barriers when seeking stem cell transplantation.
Not only do they struggle to find matching donors, but the costs related to finding a donor is one of their biggest hurdles.
But a pilot project by two international NGOs that connect patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow treatments — DKMS and Be The Match — is set to dismantle this barrier among South African children.
Through DKMS state patient support in partnership with Be The Match, the two organisations will financially assist eight cancer patients, from infancy to 18 years, who are in need of a blood stem cell transplant from unrelated volunteer donors.
On Monday the programme was launched at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, one of the two centres of excellence that treat blood cancers in SA. Another hospital that will benefit from the programme is Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
While the country’s public health system fully covers the cost of the blood stem cell transplantation for patients who have found a matching donor, for those who rely on an unrelated donor finding a match can cost anything between R100,000 and R1m due to donor search, intricate medical tests, and collection of the blood stem cells. The public healthcare system will cover the cost of the transplant itself.
DKMS global CEO Elke Neujahr said that by alleviating the financial burden on state patients, “we can help more families and give parents hope that their children will have a healthy future”.
“As an international organisation 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 SA, costs are the main barrier for patients in need of an unrelated donor. No family should worry about not being able to afford life-saving treatment for their child.”