Access to the best treatments

In 2017, blood stem cells were collected for unrelated recipients from people registered in Switzerland 56 times. A total of 138 patients received a donation of unrelated blood stem cells.

The demand for Swiss donors was at a level similar to that of the previous year. There were 247 confirmatory typing procedures performed in 2017; the 2016 figure was 258. Thus, the rapid rise of earlier years has slowed down. This reflects a global trend, which is due primarily to the fact that the initial typing performed upon donor registration is now very sophisticated. This means that the initial registry search provides a clear indication as to whether a donor could truly be a match, and thus whether confirmatory testing should be requested.

A year of constancy

A total of 56 procedures were performed to collect blood stem cells from unrelated donors in the transplant centres in Basel, Geneva and Zurich in 2017. Four of these were “secondary donations”, which are usually made necessary by a patient’s relapse. Thus, collections were performed on a scale similar to that in 2016 (51). Of the 56 donations, seven were destined for Swiss patients and 49 went to patients in other countries.

The number of searches launched for donors suitable for Swiss patients remained in the same range, with the usual minor fluctuations: there were 233 in 2017, 215 in 2016. The number of transplant procedures performed with unrelated donors, 138, also remained very close to the 2016 number (136).

Various forms of treatments

When a patient needs a blood stem cell transplant, the first step is to ascertain whether he or she has a sibling with identical tissue markers who would be willing to donate. If not, a global search for an unrelated donor is launched. If this search is not successful, the next step is to search within the family for a haploidentical donor. The numbers of haploidentical transplants increased rapidly for several years. However, in 2016 and 2017 these numbers remained fairly stable in Switzerland. The total number of transplants with related and unrelated donors in Switzerland decreased slightly though.

Latest developments

New forms of personalised therapies, like CAR T-Cell therapy, which first drew the attention of a broader public in 2017, have arrived on the scene. CAR T cells can be used in cases of a recurrent, i.e. returning, disease, or a refractory disease, which does not respond to treatments, and in some cases make recourse to a blood stem cell transplant possible. Such therapies have not yet been approved for use in Switzerland. Swiss Transfusion SRC is following the latest developments, focussing on continuing to ensure that patients have access to the best possible treatment in the future.