OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

In March, the provincial and territorial ministries of health (except Québec) announced their investment in a national public umbilical cord blood bank that will provide Canadian patients with greater access to cord blood units.

The cord blood bank will be developed and managed by Canadian Blood Services, on behalf of the provinces and territories except Québec, which runs its own cord blood banking program through Héma-Québec.

This is especially significant for Canadian patients because of the country’s ethnically diverse population. About 70 per cent of patients who require a stem cell transplant must look outside of their families for a match and have the best chance of finding it within their own ethnic group. A national, public umbilical cord blood bank will improve the chances of finding high-quality cord blood for Canadian patients.

“Currently, more than 900 Canadian patients are in need of a blood stem cell transplant to help them combat life-threatening diseases such as aplastic anemia, leukemia, and other blood-related and immune  disorders,” says Dr. Graham Sher, CEO, Canadian Blood Services. “Umbilical cord blood is a high-quality source of stem cells and a national bank will create a long-term supply that will help reduce Canada’s dependency on internationally sourced units.”

The national public umbilical cord blood bank is to be implemented over eight years in order to achieve a target inventory of 20,000 cord blood units and will include two accredited cord blood stem cell labs and a collections network across Canada (except Québec).

This initiative will also include a significant public fundraising campaign to be implemented by Canadian Blood Services over the next three years to raise $12.5 million of the investment. The campaign was officially launched on May 1 and will build on national support for a public cord blood bank.

Parents in many Canadian communities will then have the opportunity to donate their children’s umbilical cords anonymously to a public umbilical cord blood bank, making their donations available for any patient in need.

Cord blood has the advantage of producing less graft-versus-host disease in patients, more possible matching as well as improving the chances of finding matches for patients from ethnic minorities, patients who need a transplant immediately, or those patients with rare or unique HLA typing who cannot find a perfect match.