Stem cells donor gives Army officer new hope of life

An Army officer who has been diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancer may get a fresh lease of life with a donor from a western country agreeing to donate stem cells.

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 00:32 AM IST

New Delhi: An army officer who has been
diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancer may get a fresh
lease of life with a donor from a western country agreeing to
donate stem cells.

"It is for the first time in the history of Indian Army
that an international unrelated donor from a western country
will donate his stem cells to save the life of a serving
colonel here who has been diagnosed with blood cancer," Lt Gen
Naresh Kumar, officiating Director General of the Armed Forces
Medical Services said.

Diagnosed with a lethal form of blood cancer (acute
myeloid leukemia), the colonel`s only hope lies in stem cell
transplantation, a potentially curative option for such
disease.

HLA (human leukocyte antigen) matching is a key factor
when it comes to stem cell transplantation.

"To make the transplant successful, the stem cells must
be obtained from another person whose HLA matches and the best
person for the HLA matching will be the blood-related siblings
or parents.

"Sadly in this case, there is no feasibility of such a
donor," Colonel Ajay Sharma, Head of the department
of clinical Hematology and bone marrow transplantation, Army
Hospital Research and Referal (AHRR) said.

Doctors left no stone unturned to find a bone marrow
match for the patient. Their hunt came to an end when they
found a match in the National Marrow Donor registry, an
international agency involved in finding suitable donors, in
the US.

"There is no such registry in India as HLA matching of
stem cell donors is an expensive procedure and no organisation
-- government or private -- has been able to take up any
initiative to have such registry here...Waiting for such a
registry to come up in this country will be a futile exercise
as patients will not be able to live that long," Colonel
Sharma said.

Officials with the registry finally found a matching HLA
donor for this officer. However, they did not disclose the
nationality of the donor.

"It is unethical. As is the case with organ transplant,
when the donor and recipient are unrelated, their identity
should not be disclosed. After the donation they will become
genetically related," he said.

Lt Gen Kumar said, "AHRR has decided to join the
international registry.

"Maintenance of such a registry needs complete high
resolution HLA profiling of all the donors. This is an
expensive affair, hence collaborating with an international
registry is a viable option," Kumar said.

"We will maintain a registry of willing Indian donors
get the HLA done through various resources & register with
the international group," he added.

PTI