Leukaemia Patients & the AusCord Network
23 September 2002 at 1:09 pm
Children with leukaemia and other cancers will have greater access to life-saving treatment with the launch of a national network for the collection of cord blood and some strong support from the Not for Profit sector.
The Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, recently launched AusCord – the National Cord Blood Collection Network of cord blood banks and collection centres.
Senator Patterson says AusCord would provide 22,000 cord blood units in a networked and nationally coordinated approach for collecting, banking and storing umbilical and placental cord blood to ensure adequate supplies for cancer sufferers requiring cell transplants.
Cord blood is found in the umbilical cord and placenta. It contains
haemopoietic cells, which can be transplanted to people suffering from a wide range of life-threatening diseases, including leukaemias, immune disorders, anaemias, lymphoma and genetic disorders.
Umbilical cord blood provides a life-saving treatment, particularly for children, who are very responsive to such treatment. It provides an alternative treatment option to bone marrow transplants.
Senator Patterson says AusCord’s aim to store 22,000 blood units over the next four years would include 2000 units of cord blood from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She says AusCord’s network will give us a national capability to provide a database to search for a compatible cord anywhere in Australia. The big
advantage of cord blood as a source of cells is that it is immediately available and it is often easier to find a match for the patient.
She says only about 30 per cent of the 650 patients with leukaemia who need a cell transplant can find a matched bone marrow donor within their family.
The remaining 70% have to find an unrelated donor. This involves
searching the national and international bone marrow registries for
a compatible donor. The development of cord blood banking has
significantly improved the chances of finding a suitable match.
Senator Patterson says AusCord would link the efforts of cord blood banks at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in New South Wales, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Victoria and the Mater Miseracordiae Hospital in Queensland. The network will be supported by maternity hospitals in every state and coordinated by Director and Associate Professor of Renal Medicine, Jeremy Chapman.
Australia has in the past imported cord blood units from international registries, but a national bank reflecting Australia’s genetic make-up would ensure a greater degree of compatibility.
The Minister says all that is needed is for a mother to agree to donate cord blood, which is collected, tested for infections, tissue typed, processed
and then stored in liquid nitrogen until required.
This national service is for the Australian community at no out-of-pocket expense to either the parents who give their consent to the donation of their baby’s umbilical cord blood or the patient who needs the life-saving treatment.
The Federal Government has invested $10 million to help to build a national network.
This support has been matched with funding from the States and the generosity and efforts of the charitable and community sector, which have also contributed significantly to cord blood banking in Australia.
These partnerships remain important for the long-term support of cord blood banking as a community-wide resource.