Monday, September 04, 2006

"Cord Blood Bank Struggling to Collect Donations"

This article, originally posted in the San Antonio Express News, was posted in the Amarillo Globe News this morning:

Cord blood bank struggling to collect donations

The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Five years after a state-funded program to collect stem cell-rich umbilical cord blood was created, officials say getting donations remains difficult despite plenty of interest.

The nonprofit Texas Cord Blood Bank, which stocks a public supply of the valuable blood used to treat potentially fatal diseases, reports that the program has an inventory of fewer than 1,000 units.

Blood from umbilical cords is a source of stem cells that can treat patients with certain cancers, like leukemia or lymphoma. Studies have also shown that cord blood can works as well as bone marrow transplants from unrelated donors to repair broken blood-making systems.

About 6,000 units are needed for the cord bank to be financially self-sustaining, said Mary Beth Fisk, the bank's technical director.

But only four Texas hospitals out of hundreds are participating in the program, which must compete with private cord banks that parents often choose so they can later use the blood from their children if needed.

"The No. 1 question they have is, 'Will I be able to use my baby's blood, then?'" said Dr. Nancy Finney, an obstetrician at San Antonio Methodist Hospital. "And I say, no, it's a public donation. But if enough people donate to the cause, then that boosts your chance of ever finding a match from your own child if they needed it."

Methodist Medical City in Dallas and Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and Brownsville are currently the only hospitals in the program. The cup-sized donations end up in liquid nitrogen freezers at San Antonio's South Texas Blood and Tissue Center for storage.

Methodist has collected about 2,500 donations since last year, but only 800 were good enough collections to make it to the storage freezers.

Fisk said one of the problems in getting more hospitals to participate is cost. While the bank will train doctors and nurses on how to collect the cord blood, hospitals must still dedicate at least one person to coordinate and collect the donations.

In San Antonio, University Health System spokeswoman Leni Kirkman questions why the bank doesn't offer to pay the costs for coordinators, since hospitals are already financially strapped.

"That would seem like the way to go," she said.


Information from: San Antonio Express-News,

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.