Paris - Over a million people have received blood and marrow stem cell transplants for life-threatening diseases in the past 57 years, but too many are still waiting, a study said Friday.
Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) often offers the only possibility of a cure for blood diseases and rare cancers like myeloma or leukaemia.
The procedure involves taking healthy stem cells from the blood or marrow of the patient or from a healthy donor, with which to boost the system of someone whose blood-manufacturing bone marrow or immune system is damaged or defective.
By 1985, 28 years after the first experimental marrow transplant, about 10,000 such procedures had been performed, rising to 500,000 by 1995, said a study in The Lancet Haematology journal.
By December 2012, that number had risen to almost a million at 1,516 transplant centres in 75 countries.
The analysis found huge discrepancies between rich and poor countries. Of the HSCTs performed, 52.5 percent were in Europe, 31 percent in the Americas, 15 percent in southeast Asia and the western Pacific, and less than two percent in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa.
The study found that transplant material came from donors in 42 percent of cases.
The number of countries with donor registries increased from two in 1987 to 57 in 2012, and volunteer donors from 3,072 to over 22 million in the same period.
"Despite these increases, there are still too many patients who are unable to find a suitable donor," said a statement by The Lancet.
More than 37,000 people are waiting worldwide right now.
"Patients, many of them children, are facing a life and death situation," said Dietger Niederwieser of Germany's University Hospital Leipzig, who co-authored the study.
"Ultimately they will die if they cannot get the treatment they need.
"All countries need to provide adequate infrastructure for patients and donors to make sure that everyone who needs a transplant gets one, rather than the present situation in which access remains restricted to countries and people with sufficient resources." (+++++)
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