Experienced team ensures supply of stem cells for blood cancer patients worldwide
Donating stem cells to give a blood cancer patient a second chance at life is an incredible and selfless act of kindness. Out of over 11.5 million people registered with DKMS, more than 105,000 have donated stem cells in the past 32 years. More than 7,700 times each year - in the seven countries where DKMS is present. “We are deeply indebted to all the people who support our life-saving mission and donate their stem cells. At DKMS, we want to make this unique experience for our donors as comfortable as possible. In addition to many valued partners who perform collections for us, we can now also take care of our donors ourselves and all along the way,” says Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global Chief Executive Officer at DKMS and Chief Executive Officer of the DKMS Collection Center.
In the past months, the transfer of parts of the Cellex Collection Center in Dresden to DKMS were planned and implemented. This has now started its work as a non-profit organization on 01 April 2023. In the coming months, this will also take place at the Cologne location. “Cellex has been our trusted partner for 20 years and has performed more than 50,000 stem cell collections for DKMS. We are glad to start operations today in Dresden with a dedicated team of experts and are looking forward to the launch of our collection center in Cologne,” says Dr. Elke Neujahr.
DKMS and Cellex share a very long history. In 2001, Professor Gerhard Ehninger, the co-founder of DKMS, launched Cellex in Dresden and further established the collection center in Cologne in 2009. “DKMS and Cellex worked hand in hand ever since to provide lifesaving stem cells from healthy donors. The transfer ensures that the successful work of the Cellex Collection Center will be continued by DKMS in the interest of all blood cancer and blood disorder patients worldwide,” says Professor Gerhard Ehninger, Managing Partner at Cellex Cell Professionals.
“Our goal is to provide the best possible service to our DKMS donors. It is a great opportunity for us to start the DKMS Collection Center with such an experienced and reliable team. The safety and well-being of our donors has top priority,” says Sirko Geist, Chief Executive Officer of the DKMS Collection Center. The team in Dresden consists of excellent physicians and dedicated nurses. Together, they enable on average six peripheral stem cell collections daily and four bone marrow collections per week with the necessary care and attention and in compliance with the highest standards. After collection, couriers deliver the stem cells to transplant centers around the world.
The first peripheral stem cell donations took place at the DKMS Collection Center in Dresden already. Among others, 57-year-old Michael Zentgraf and 25-year-old Marcel Scherer gave a blood cancer patient the chance of a cure and a healthy future.
Michael Zentgraf told Dr. Elke Neujahr and Sirko Geist his donor story. Together with his wife, the 57-year-old registered with DKMS in 2019 and received the news that he was a potential lifesaver for a patient in December 2022. He recalls, "I was surprised at first, of course. After all, you don't have it on your radar every day that you're registered. But I didn't hesitate for a second." His wife and two daughters are proud that he can someone a second chance at life, and so his donation has been a frequent topic of discussion in everyday family life over the past weeks and months. "You think about who the transplant is for, of course - but in principle it's simply about helping," says the father of two, who works as an administrative manager for pastoral care - which provided additional material for conversation. "We both have the same mission, the preservation of humanity - that's what Mr Zentgraf said to me. This sentence will remain in my memory for a long time and really touched me," highlights Dr. Elke Neujahr.
Marcel Scherer has a very special connection to the topic of stem cell donation. The 25-year-old is following in his father's footsteps as a potential lifesaver. "He donated stem cells to a patient about 20 years ago. Now I'm sitting here two decades later having the same experience," he says.
DKMS cooperates with several certified collection centers. Also, in the future, the organization will continue to work together with them in a trustful partnership to ensure that patients are given a second chance at life. Because: worldwide, every 27 seconds someone is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. Many patients cannot survive without a life-saving stem cell donation and for many every day counts. Thus, it is crucial that sufficient capacities for stem cell collection are available. “With the DKMS Collection Center we want to meet increasing requests to make sure that patients receive the donated cells when they need them. We are therefore planning to expand our capacities and will move to new and larger premises in Dresden this year,” highlights Sirko Geist.
Later this year, DKMS is going to hold a celebratory opening of the two DKMS Collection Centers in Dresden and Cologne.
DKMS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of patients with blood cancer and blood disorders. Founded in Germany in 1991 by Dr. Peter Harf, DKMS and the organization’s over 1,000 employees have since relentlessly pursued the aim of giving as many patients as possible a second chance at life. With over 11.5 million registered donors, DKMS has succeeded in doing this more than 105,000 times to date by providing blood stem cell donations to those in need. This accomplishment has led to DKMS becoming the global leader in the facilitation of unrelated blood stem cell transplants. The organization has offices in Germany, the US, Poland, the UK, Chile and South Africa. In India, DKMS has founded the joint venture DKMS-BMST together with the Bangalore Medical Services Trust. International expansion and collaboration are key to helping patients worldwide because, like the organization itself, blood cancer knows no borders.
DKMS is also heavily involved in the fields of medicine and science, with its own research unit focused on continually improving the survival and recovery rate of patients. In its high-performance laboratory, the DKMS Life Science Lab, the organization sets worldwide standards in the typing of potential blood stem cell donors.