One in three Canadians needing bone and marrow transplant die for lack of an appropriate match, statistics show. A national cord blood bank could arrest the trend.
'Fifty or more people each year we're losing because we can't find a donor,' said Dr. John Doyle, who heads the Bone and Marrow Transplant Program at the Hospital for Sick Children.
The increasing number of non-Caucasian patients risk being unable to find a match within the pool of largely Caucasian donors, Doyle said.
'So when we're looking at a child of mixed heritage ... the ability to accept a mismatch becomes important and in that setting cord blood becomes a donor source.'
Beverly Campbell of Canadian Blood Services said plans were underway to establish a national public cord blood bank as early as next year. First, the agency must present a business case to its 'funders' - the provincial and territorial governments.
She estimates it could cost almost $5 million to set up and an additional $2 million each year to run.
Such a bank, Doyle said, must find also find a way of bringing in more ethnically diverse donors if it hopes to serve the needs of Canada's multicultural patients.
Although a number of private blood banks exist in Toronto and across the country, Doyle said they won't help with these kinds of patients.
Outside of Montreal and Edmonton, most cord blood collection in the country is done commercially, with parents paying upwards of $1,000 in annual fees to store their child's cord blood for their exclusive use.
'We very much need a publicly driven system where people are giving cord blood to be used by anyone, in any circumstance.'
Because Canada lacks a national, taxpayer-supported cord blood bank, most cord blood used for transplants there comes from foreign countries.