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First person to donate lifesaving blood stem cells in new stem cell partnership

A specialist medical unit in Sheffield is now enabling more people to help save lives all over the world.

21 May 2019

The NHS Blood and Transplant Therapeutic Apheresis Services (TAS) unit, based within Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has become the first unit in the country to provide collection centre services for donors from all three stem cell and bone marrow registries operating in England.

The latest partner is DKMS, a blood cancer charity registering potential blood stem cell donors aged between 17-55. Stem cells are used to help save the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.

The TAS unit, which specialises in state-of-the art treatments for rare diseases, is now the only NHS centre in England that provides services for donors from the British Bone Marrow Registry, Anthony Nolan, and DKMS.

James donating at the NHSBT TAS unitStem cell and bone marrow donations are collected to support people who have blood disorders and cancers such as leukaemia and require a lifesaving stem cell transplant. The donations made in Sheffield are used to support people both within the UK and across the world.

Prior to establishing the NHSBT service in Sheffield, donors from across the North (including Scotland) needed to travel to London or other locations to make their donation and give someone else a second chance at life.

The first person to donate through the partnership was James Moore (above), aged 26, from Liverpool, who donated to a complete stranger to give them a second chance at life.

He donated at the NHSBT TAS unit, which is based in The Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

James was inspired to register as a potential blood stem cell donor after hearing of a local Liverpool boy, Finn McEwen, and his search to find his lifesaver, in 2015.

James attended a DKMS donor registration event, took the first steps to become a lifesaver-in-waiting and was on the registry for a few years before being identified as a match for someone in need.

He is now urging others to take the first step and register as potential blood stem cell donor, ahead of World Blood Cancer Day (28 May), and go on standby to help save the life of someone like you.

James said: “I registered with DKMS after hearing about Finn’s fight against blood cancer and desperate search to find his potential lifesaver. I wanted to try and help.

“To be identified as a potential match for someone and to go on and donate my blood stem cells to help save their life is such an exciting experience and one that I will never forget. What better gift can you give then the gift of life?”

NHS Blood and Transplant Nurse Practitioner Laura Green, aged 30, from Wadsley in Sheffield, was the nurse in charge of James’ donation. Laura said: “The donation went really smoothly. We already take donations from the British Bone Marrow Registry and from Anthony Nolan, so this was exciting because it was the first donation from a registry for us to work with, DKMS.”

The new partnership between NHSBT and DKMS started in April and ensures that registry donors in England are able to donate their blood stem cells in a centre local to their home.

Each year around 400 patients can’t have this potentially lifesaving treatment because there’s not a suitable donor. NHSBT and DKMS hope to increase the number of donors available to people in need of a blood stem cell transplant. The new partnership helps widen the donor base and get a step closer to providing a donor to those patients needing a transplant.

Catherine Howell, NHSBT Chief Nurse Diagnostic and Therapeutic Services, said: “For some patients, a stem cell transplant is the only hope of survival and if a family member is not a match, patients reply on the generosity of strangers. By working together with DKMS and Sheffield Teaching Hospital we hope to increase the number of donors available to people and save more lives.”

Stephan Schumacher, CEO at DKMS, said: “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to provide a new location for stem cell collections with DKMS donors. Thanks to the generous acts of donors like James we are able to give people with blood cancers and disorder a second chance of life.”

Dr David Hughes, Medical Director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We are delighted that we are now able to provide blood stem collections with DKMS donors. The stem cells will help to treat people with blood cancer and disorders both in the UK and across the world. We are very proud that we are able to provide this vital service.”

Stem cell transplants are used to treat a wide range of blood cancers and disorders. For some people, a stem cell transplant is the only hope of survival. Matching donors and patients isn’t easy, and between 65-75% of those in need are unable to find a matching sibling and so rely on the generosity of strangers.

Photo shows NHS Blood and Transplant Nurse Practitioner Laura Green with donor James Moore.

To get more information on how to become a stem cell donor visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/british-bone-marrow-registry or www.dkms.org.uk.


Additional information


Notes to editors

NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We provide the blood donation service for England and the organ donation service for the UK. We also provide donated tissues, stem cells and cord blood. We are an essential part of the NHS, saving and improving lives through public donation.

DKMS is a global not for profit organisation that started in Germany in 1991. We are dedicated to the fight against blood cancer through recruiting stem cell donors and providing second chances at life; creating awareness of blood disorders and raising funds to match donor registration costs and today operates in Germany, USA, Poland, Chile and the UK. Over 8.6 million potential blood stem cell donors are registered worldwide, 500,000 of those from the UK.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is one of the UK’s largest NHS Foundation Trusts and one of the largest and busiest teaching hospitals. We have over 17,000 staff caring for over two million patients each year at our five hospitals and in the local community. The Trust is recognised internationally for its work in neurosciences, spinal injuries, renal, cancer, transplantation, neurosciences and orthopaedics.