The Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) announced its intention to expand its local register by a further 5,000 volunteer donors this year.
BMDP is a Singapore-based non-profit organisation which partners transplant hospitals here to identify matching bone marrow donors for patients stricken with diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma, who need a bone marrow transplant in order to survive.
The odds of finding a match is only 1:20,000. Expanding the register is thus critical, especially in consideration of the prevalence of small families here, which makes finding a matching family member difficult, said BMDP President Jane Prior.
BMDP relies on public and corporate donations to fund their work.
The total cost of running the organisation is around $1.5 million per annum, including the $750,000.00 required for the 5,000 new donors to be added to the register.
In March, the BMDP’s annual charity ball raised $580,000. These funds will be channelled in to growing the local register, said BMDP.
The amount is expected to cover the cost of adding 80 per cent of this year’s target number of additional donors.
The register today has around 50,000 volunteer donors all signed up and fully tissue typed.
As a donor match is most likely to be found from within the same ethnic group, the target is to expand significantly the registers for the minority groups, BMDP said.
“Public education is key. There are many myths about the donation process and even the requirements for signing up,” said Prior.
She clarified that all it takes is a simple mouth swab to sign up as a donor. This can even be managed remotely via mail.
Today’s bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant is no longer a high-risk procedure, saving lives that would otherwise be lost unnecessarily to these most common forms of cancer, said BMDP.
Once a search request is received, the search begins in Singapore and will extend around the world if required. The organisation received preliminary search requests for 174 patients last year, and found successful matches for 51 patients.
When a donor is confirmed as a patient match, BMDP makes sure he or she is fit and healthy to donate.
Last year, five local donors gave their bone marrow to patients in Singapore, as well as Hong Kong and the US.