Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children Reopens Stem Cell Collection Program in Hawaii

Partnership eliminates need for donors to travel to mainland and gives Hawaii patients a better chance of finding donor match 01/25/2016

Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children recently partnered with the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry (HBMDR) to offer the only peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) and marrow collection program in Hawaii.

“We are proud of our partnership with the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry and that our work together helps meet a critical need for our state,” said Martha Smith, CEO of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. “This collection program allows for donations to be made in Hawaii without donors needing to travel to the mainland, which will make a huge difference for both donors and patients in need of a donation.”

After the closure of Hawaii Medical Center in 2011, HBMDR needed an affiliate medical facility to perform stem cell collections. They partnered with Scripps Green in La Jolla, California, and Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle, Washington. Although most of the coordination could be done in Hawaii, this meant that donors needed to fly to the mainland for the actual collection.  

To help address this problem, Kapiolani Medical Center expanded its existing pediatric bone marrow collection program in 2012 so that it was able to accommodate adult volunteer donors from the HBMDR. Through a legislative grant in aid and other donations, Kapiolani also developed its own pediatric stem cell collection program. Earlier this year, it received approval to perform adult donor collections for the HBMDR and any other registries in the national program.

“Regaining local capability to collect from adults, while challenging, was part of our mission to help with coordination of the stem cell and bone marrow donation process,” said Renee Chung, donor program manager at the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry. “The easier we make it for people to donate, the more likely they will do so.”

Peripheral blood stem cell donation is a nonsurgical procedure, and one of two methods of collecting blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants. Blood stem cell and marrow transplants are often the best, and sometimes the only curative therapy for patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as patients with sickle cell anemia and other genetic diseases. In Hawaii, finding matches for bone marrow transplant patients is difficult due to the state’s diverse ethnic population. Matches are more often found between patient and donor when they share the same ancestry.

“Since matches are more common between patients and donors of the same ethnic background, we are in the best position to help ourselves,” said Randal Wada, MD, medical director of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Program at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children and the HBMDR. The collection programs at Kapiolani will help make it easier for local people to donate.”

Donors are matched with patients through the National Be The Match Registry, an affiliate of Hawaii’s local branch. To learn more about registering, visit bonemarrowhawaii.com.

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