Health minister Anne Milton has launched an extension to our Cord Blood programme in the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London. Mothers who give birth in hospital will be given the opportunity to donate their umbilical cord and placenta after birth. These can then be used in lifesaving transplants for people with blood cancer.
The programme will take place in the Sue Harris Cord Blood Collection Centre, funded by the Sue Harris Trust, which was formed after the death of Sue Harris in 1997 despite a campaign in which thousands were screened in the hope of finding a bone marrow match to her rare tissue type. They will now work in partnership with Anthony Nolan and the Royal Free to encourage cord blood collection in the hospital.
Cord blood and placenta donation is extremely important as they are rich in stem cells, similar to the ones found in bone marrow, and they are an excellent alternative to getting marrow from adult donors as they can be used in transplants for patients suffering from leukaemia and other blood diseases. However, at the moment, the UK does not store enough cord blood for suitable use in transplants, which is why more cord blood collection sites are needed, and why the new site at Royal Free is extremely important.
Trust Secretary Lionel Salama said: “The Sue Harris Trust is extremely pleased to be working with Anthony Nolan and funding the establishment of the new Sue Harris Cord Blood Collection Centre at the Royal Free Hampstead. The collections that will be facilitated here in Sue’s memory will help to save hundreds of lives, as well as providing valuable stem cells for medical research into the causes and cures of a range of serious diseases affecting an even greater number of people.”
Public Health Minister Anne Milton, who launched the programme, added: "This new cord blood collection site will make a real difference for patients requiring life-saving transplants. I am glad we are able to share this common objective to increase cord blood collection, provide quicker treatment and reduce the time it takes to find a matching stem cell donor."
Anthony Nolan now has five cord blood collection sites in NHS hospitals but more are needed in order to provide transplants for as many people in need as possible. One such person was Jo Hemesley, who recovered from leukaemia when someone donated their cord blood. She said: “I’m so grateful to the mother who gave me the opportunity to live again. And I’m grateful to Anthony Nolan and cord blood collection sites like the Royal Free, for collecting cord blood which will give so many people who can’t find an adult donor the chance of life.
Please visit www.anthonynolan.org/cordblood to find out more about our Cord Blood programme.