Thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, hodgkin lymphoma – these are just a few blood disorders.
Q: The cure?
A: Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) is sometimes the only treatment available.
Every year an estimated 24,000 patients with severe blood disorders around the globe undergo HSCT, during which stem cells are extracted from a donor and transplanted into the patient. HSCT is saving more and more lives. Unfortunately, there are complications that come with it. One such complication is GvHD (graft-versus-host disease), where white blood cells from the donated stem cells attack the patient’s tissue. This can leave the patient with skin rashes and liver damage, and can affect the mouth, as well as gut.
Q: The cure for GvHD?
This absence of curative treatments results from the lack of knowledge concerning GvHD, as well as other HSCT complications. Bearing this in mind, the Francophone Society for Stem Cell Transplantation and Cell Therapy sought to promote the CRYOSTEM project, an initiative launched in 2011, that set up a specialised European biobank, which is dedicated to GvHD and other HSCT complications. The goal is to accelerate knowledge generation through research so that adequate treatments can be developed and delivered to those who need it the most.
Before research can be conducted however, samples and data are needed. And where there are none, a collection needs to be initiated. This is exactly what CRYOSTEM did. With the aim of initiating a sample collection as quickly as possible, CRYOSTEM managed to obtain all necessary regulatory authorisations within a year of its launch, resulting in the first patient inclusion in July 2012. Fast forward a mere 3 years, and the CRYOSTEM network has grown considerably, bringing together 33 out of the 36 French transplant units, a further 23 biological resource centers and over 400 healthcare and research bodies in the field. Add 6,000 patients and 2,500 donors to the mix, and today, there are almost 200,000 biological samples, along with GvHD clinical data, that are available to the national and international scientific community for research.
As of today, the CRYOSTEM biobank has released 5,000 samples to a number of European research projects that investigate GvHD and other complications by identifying risk markers following transplantations, monitoring and predicting responses to therapies in order to better understand these complications. With a further ten new projects on the horizon, CRYOSTEM demonstrates the pivotal and crucial role that biobanking plays in order to improve medical knowledge in the field of HSCT complications and ultimately, patient care.
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