More collections of blood stem cells

In 2018 blood stem cells destined for an unrelated recipient were collected from donors registered in Switzerland 61 times. A total of 144 patients received blood stem cells from an unrelated donor.

Blood stem cells from Switzerland were in higher demand among transplanting doctors in 2018 than ever before. Collection procedures hit a record high, with 61 procedures performed, including 1 secondary donation. There were 56 collections performed in 2017, 4 of them secondary donations, which are usually necessitated by a patient’s relapse. Of the 61 donations, 8 were destined for Swiss patients, 53 for patients abroad. At 260, the number of confirmatory typing procedures was also higher than the 2017 figure (247) but was still in the same range as the 2016 total (258).

Rise in number of transplants

The number of searches for the right donor for a Swiss patient initiated in 2018, 230, remained in the range seen in previous years (2017: 233 / 2016: 205). By contrast, transplants of blood stem cells from unrelated donors increased slightly in number, to 144 (2017: 138 / 2016: 136).

A total of 258 transplants, from related and unrelated donors, were performed in Switzerland in 2018 (see chart). After increasing rapidly over several years, the number of haploidentical transplants has remained fairly stable since 2016.

The best for patients

Swiss Transfusion SRC is committed to continuing to offer transplanting doctors high-quality transplant material that is tailored to the needs of their patients, and it has defined the principle objectives of its new recruitment strategy with this in mind. Adjusting processes continually to reflect new developments in the medical sector continues to be a priority as well though, for instance, in the context of the evaluation to determine actual eligibility to donate.

The current practice of assigning donors to one of four risk groups (standard, low, medium, high) on the basis of their individual (sexual) behaviour was instituted in 2016, and appropriate periods of ineligibility for blood stem cell donation were defined that same year. A new development in 2018 is that additional donor and patient risks are weighed in a differentiated manner in order to better meet patients’ needs while ensuring the safety of donors.

New forms of treatment

Cellular therapies, which can be used to treat diseases, including leukemia, are gaining ground all over the world. In Switzerland, for example, approval was granted in 2018 to a CAR-T cell product, which is used in certain cases; other products should be approved in the near future. Swiss Transfusion SRC, together with its medical scientific body, Swiss Blood Stem Cell Transplantation (SBST), supports the use of these therapies. It does so, for instance, through data management or in scientific discussions to which it contributes its expertise. The focus is on ensuring that patients always have access to the best possible treatment.