More than eight out of 10 women (85%) would be happy to donate their umbilical cord to a public bank, provided that there was no impact on them or their baby according to a national survey published today in a report by a committee of MPs. The UK’s public cord banks have received a boost to support as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation called for the expansion of public cord blood provision for UK patients. Umbilical cord blood is an alternative to bone marrow or blood stem cells for patients with blood cancers and other disorders who need a lifesaving transplant.
Charity Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant, who between them manage England’s public cord blood banks, received £4m in funding from the Department for Health in 2011 to increase their capacity for collection and to grow the adult donor register. The report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation makes specific recommendations on how the UK can enhance this work to be able to reach a bank of 50,000 cord blood units – the amount needed to provide for 85% of the patients who need a lifesaving stem cell transplant but for whom there is no matching donor available.
Labour MP Mark Tami, Chair of the APPG, said, “The UK is lagging behind other countries in its development of public cord blood banking, though investment is starting to reap results. We hope our report will add new impetus to the government’s national plan for cord blood, and save the lives of 200 or more people each year who currently have no hope at all.”
Vice Chair of the group, Conservative MP David Burrowes said, “The fact that 85% of women would be happy to donate their umbilical cords to save the life of a stranger indicates a huge well of altruism in this country. Patients in need of a transplant depend on us to tap that well on their behalf”,
Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for Cancer for the Department for Health, said, “The development of cord blood banking has been an area of rapid development and intense international cooperation; more than 20,000 cord blood transplants have been reported worldwide and more than 400,000 cord blood units have been stored in over 100 banks. Cord blood is now being used to treat more than 70 life threatening illnesses, and research is showing it also has huge promise for regenerative medicine, including therapies to treat spinal cord conditions and Parkinsons disease.”
Robert Mason, whose 7 year old daughter, Sorrel, had a transplant five years ago, said, “Sorrel, was fortunate enough to find a matching donor from a cord blood match banked in Japan. We’re eternally grateful that that person had the foresight to bank their cord – it saved Sorrel’s life. We should be doing as much as we can to improve cord blood banking in the UK, to ensure that more lifesaving matches are found for blood cancer patients in this country and abroad.”
The APPG’s full report will be available online at 15.55 on Tuesday 31st January. Go to www.anthonynolan.org/cordreport
ComRes surveyed 1,119 women online between 21st and 25th April 2011. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.