Cord Blood Banking

11
May 2016
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Stem Cells 101 concludes successful run with Ottawa event

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Dr. Bill Stanford addresses the audience at  Tuesday’s Stem Cells 101 event in Ottawa   (CBC Photo)

Across Ontario, hundreds of people have a stronger appreciation of stem cells, thanks to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (OIRM) Stem Cell 101 — The Promise and Potential.…

Dr. Bill Stanford at Stem Cells 101 (CBC Photo)

Dr. Bill Stanford addresses the audience at  Tuesday’s Stem Cells 101 event in Ottawa   (CBC Photo)

Across Ontario, hundreds of people have a stronger appreciation of stem cells, thanks to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (OIRM) Stem Cell 101 — The Promise and Potential.

The spring lecture series — featuring world-leading scientists explaining the field, talking about their research and discussing the ethical issues involved — concluded last night in Ottawa where an audience of about 100 listened, asked thoughtful questions and exchanged ideas with the experts.

Co-sponsored by the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital, Tuesday’s event followed similar free-to-the-public sessions in London, Hamilton and Toronto held in partnership with Western University, McMaster University and SickKids Hospital, respectively.

At each event, local scientists addressed such questions as: “What is a stem cell?”  “What’s new in stem cell research?” “What kinds of treatments are using stem cells today?”  “What is stem cell tourism?”

At last night’s session, Dr. Bill Stanford, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, told the audience how he left an uncertain regulatory environment in the United States, where President George W. Bush had imposed a ban on federal funding for research on new embryonic stem cell lines, to come to work in Canada. President Barack Obama lifted the ban, but Dr. Stanford chose to stay in Ottawa, he told CBC News, because “here in Ottawa people work together instead of working by themselves and that makes things go much faster and better.”

As part of his discussion on ethics, Dr Jeff Blackmer, Vice-President of Medical Professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), focused on private versus public banking of umbilical cord blood, which provides a rich and non-controversial supply of stem cells for transplant.  He noted that private cord blood banks, which charge significant collection fees and annual storage fees, can contain an implied messages in their advertising that parents who don’t use their services are letting their children down.  While such a decision is a personal one, he noted that public cord blood banking reflects the spirit of universal health care. Canada’s Cord Blood Bank now operates in four cities.

Asked about when new therapies will make it to the clinic, The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Harry Atkins said that while the field is progressing rapidly, significant technological challenges remain.  That makes it difficult to predict whether a new treatment might become available, he said, noting that in some cases “it could be two years, it could be a decade.”

(Note: The Spring edition of our Cellections newsletter features some of the leading-edge stem cell research underway in Ottawa. Subscribe here, by clicking on “Newsletter.”)

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16
Sep 2014
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Margaret Atwood: the importance of the national cord blood bank

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In Monday’s the Globe and Mail, Margaret Atwood shared her thoughts about the importance of the national public cord blood bank in Canada.…

In Monday’s the Globe and Mail, Margaret Atwood shared her thoughts about the importance of the national public cord blood bank in Canada.

With Canada being an ethnically diverse country, many patients affected by leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases, are unable to find a match among donors to treat their diseases. Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells that can be transplanted to patients unable to find a donor.

As featured in several articles here, prior to September 2013, when the first cold blood collection facility opened in Ottawa, Canada was the only G8 country without a national collection program. Private collection banks existed already, but they were not accessible to everyone due to the costs.

Thanks to the initiative of Canadian Blood Services (CBS), there are four public cord blood collection facilities now: in Ottawa, Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver.

CBS has been leading the $12.5-million fundraising campaign to expand the collection bank and has yet to raise the last quarter of the amount.

“Some may feel that private enterprise can take care of this need. That’s fine for those who can afford it, but what about those who can’t?” writes Ms. Atwood. “Public health services should allow care for all, not just the privileged. And so it should be with cord blood banks. I’m confident that, once they realize the need, Canadians will pitch in and get the bank completed.”

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08
Apr 2014
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Calgary looks ahead to performing transplants

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The National Public Cord Blood Bank will have an impact in cities beyond those doing the collection.

The first cord blood collecting facility was opened in September 2013 in Ottawa, followed by Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver, where a collection facility was launched in January at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.…

The National Public Cord Blood Bank will have an impact in cities beyond those doing the collection.

The first cord blood collecting facility was opened in September 2013 in Ottawa, followed by Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver, where a collection facility was launched in January at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.

The Calgary Herald reported yesterday that the collection of umbilical cord blood will benefit the Southern Alberta city’s hospitals making it possible to perform stem cell transplants at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre later this year.

“There’s a good chance we may find donors for Canadian children in the Canadian cord bank,” says Dr. Victor Lewis, a pediatric oncologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Cord blood cells are a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma, which account for almost half of all cancers occurring in children between the ages of 0 and 14.

The existence of a national bank will reduce the costs of importing cord blood units from abroad and will increase the chances of finding a better match for Canadians in need of a transplant.

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13
Jan 2014
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Save cord blood, save lives

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In September, when the first public umbilical cord blood bank opened in Ottawa, Canada joined — albeit last — the rest of the G8 countries to have a national collection program.…

In September, when the first public umbilical cord blood bank opened in Ottawa, Canada joined — albeit last — the rest of the G8 countries to have a national collection program.

Things have been rolling along since then.

On Friday, the BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in Vancouver was named the fourth collection site across the country, with Brampton and Edmonton designated in October and November respectively. “We are honoured to have BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre as one of our collection hospitals,” Dr. Graham Sher, Chief Executive Officer at Canadian Blood Services, which manages the public bank, said in a media release. CBS expects to collect about 18,000 cord blood units over the next six years.

Healthy women 18 years older who are delivering at the Vancouver hospital can soon voluntarily donate their baby’s cord blood during a testing period that will last until mid-year. The collection site officially launches later this year.

The donated cord blood will be available to patients unable to find donors among their families or donor lists. Cord blood cells are a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.

With Vancouver being such an ethnically diverse city, the newly created collection facility will increase the possibility of patients from different ethnical backgrounds — including Asians, Aboriginal People and multi-ethnic people — finding a match.

“Finding a bone marrow match was more of a problem for me because I’m black” Hector Walker, who received his bone marrow transplant from cord blood cells in 2010, told the Vancouver Sun. “Even my brother wasn’t a match.

“Life is so unpredictable. People should understand they can save someone’s life by doing this,” he said.

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02
Oct 2013
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Klaassen CBC Screen Capture

Cord blood: Now Canada can bank on it

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Bad news, they say, travels fast. But the announcement this week that Canada now has a national public cord blood bank up and running (or, more appropriately, taking its first baby steps) shows that good news is no slowpoke.…

Bad news, they say, travels fast. But the announcement this week that Canada now has a national public cord blood bank up and running (or, more appropriately, taking its first baby steps) shows that good news is no slowpoke.

Mothers delivering at two Ottawa Hospital campuses now have the option of depositing their babies’ umbilical cord blood into the National Public Cord Blood Bank. It can then be withdrawn to save the lives of some of the 1,000 Canadians who, at any given time, need an unrelated stem cell match to treat diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia and TaySachs.

Dr. Robert Klaassen, left, a hematologist/oncologist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, explained to CBC News that having a national cord blood bank will shorten wait times and increase the pool of potential matches: “The main problem we have is that many patients, when they need a bone marrow transplant, don’t have a sibling to match to so we have to start looking for unrelated matches.”

Canada, the country where stem cells were discovered, has been slow off the mark with this. Postmedia newspapers pointed out that until this week ours was the only G8 country without a national cord blood bank.

While there currently are three other regional cord blood banks, (Héma-Québec, Alberta and Victoria Angel) and several private operations, Canadian patients needing stem cell transplants often have had to be treated with supplies purchased from other countries – at a cost to the health care system of about $42,000 per unit.

According to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which manages the national bank, a Made In Canada cord blood unit will be substantially less than half that amount.

CBS will roll out three more collections sites in Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver by mid-2014 and expects to collect 18,000 donated cord blood units over the next six years. Those cities were selected because of their high birth rates and diverse ethnic populations, which will boost the range of possible matches.

As Sue Smith, CBS Executive Director of Stem Cells, told CTV News, “It’s very easy; any woman over the age of 18, as long as they have had a healthy birth and it’s beyond 34 weeks gestation, [can donate].”

The National Cord Blood Bank is a $48-million enterprise with provincial and territorial ministries of health (except Québec) investing the lion’s share while CBS leads a $12.5-million fundraising campaign for the rest. As of this week they have raised more than half that amount.

So, more lives will be saved and significant cost savings realized. If that’s not good news, what is?

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