Netherlands to expand stem cell donation programme in Leukemia battle

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Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health wants to put an end to the shortage of stem cell donors in the Netherlands and give all leukemia or other blood cancer patients a proper chance of finding a match. She therefore teamed up with the Dutch center for stem cell donors Matchis to launch a campaign to recruit new donors.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, a few thousand people in the Netherlands are diagnosed with leukemia or another form of blood cancer each year. But due to the shortage of stem cell donors in the country, many of these patients don't find a suitable match. "More donors mean a bigger chance of a match. More donors mean for patients a bigger chance for life." the Ministry writes.

Stem cells are used to treat people with blood cancer, but only if donor and patient match. The match has to do with the tissue type, according to NOS. There are millions of tissue types, which means that finding a suitable donor can seem like an impossible task. More donors make the task that much easier.

Stem cell donors are registered in an anonymous international database. In the Netherlands some 104 thousand people are registered.

The Ministry and Matchis launched a mostly online campaign for donors. They are looking for healthy people between 18 and 50 years to register as donors. Not everyone who registers will be approached - about one in a thousand donors are called in per year. If you do get the call, you still have the option of opting out.

"As a stem cell donor, we call you maybe once in a lifetime to give stem cells", according to Matchis. "By signing up, you give our patients a chance to heal and a chance at a normal, healthy life."