Million chances to survive

Have you heard of stem cell donation? In the media, there are a lot of reports about seriously ill people who are saved by stem-cell therapy or who are urgently looking for a donor. 

The Belgian Bone Marrow Donor Registry manages a database that stores the tissue types of people who are willing to donate stem cells. The registry also works very closely with foreign registries to give patients a better chance of finding a suitable donor. As such, we have access to stem cells from all over the world, significantly increasing the chance of finding a match. We can help 9 out of 10 patients of Western European origin.

Unfortunately, not everyone has that many chances of finding a compatible donor. Specifically, there are very few donors of North African, Central African, Turkish or mixed origin, meaning that we are unable to help 1 in 3 patients with these backgrounds.

The Stem Cell Roadmap

Finding a donor is not as hard as many people think. There is little point searching for a stem cell donor via an urgent appeal (for example, through social media). The chances of finding a suitable donor are much higher via one of the following three steps:

Step 1: Your own stem cells

It may surprise you but the first eligible donor is the patient him or her self. A patient's own stem cells can be harvested and frozen at a time when the illness has reduced sufficiently, so that they can be given back to the patient after intense chemotherapy, for example.

Step 2: Immediate family

When your own stem cells are no longer usable, doctors check whether stem cells from an immediate family member (such as a brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, son, aunt, or uncle) can be used. The chance of finding a match with immediate family members is very high.

Step 3: The international stem cell bank

If there is no match with the stem cells from your immediate family, or you have no immediate family anymore, then we look for a suitable donor from among the Belgians who have volunteered as a stem cell donor. If we do not find a match in Belgium, then there are stem cell donors from all over the world ready to help you, giving you about 31 million chances of finding a suitable donor.