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Staff from the stem cell donor team at the National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) recently had the opportunity to highlight the success of their internationally recognised stem cell donor service during the Doha International Organ Donor Academy Conference held in Qatar.

The Doha International Organ Donor Academy Conference was organised by the Qatar Organ Donation Programme at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). This year’s meeting marked 30 years of safe and successful organ transplantation surgeries at HMC and publicly recognised Qatari organ donors and transplant recipients who chose to have their procedure done in Qatar rather than go abroad.

The stem cell donor team contributed to the First Symposium on Stem Cell Donation Conference for Qatar, which took place towards the end of the Doha International Donor Academy 2017. The symposium included updates on the National Autologous (launched in 2015) and Allogeneic (launched in 2017) Stem Cell Transplant Programmes. The updates were given by Dr Ruba Taha on behalf of NCCCR’s CEO and medical director, Professor Alexander Knuth.

Commenting on the occasion, Professor Knuth said: “We are delighted to have hosted Qatar’s first Stem Cell Donor Symposium in Doha, and honoured to have had the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of stem cell donation and of our achievements in Qatar. We are also pleased to have had the opportunity to interact with colleagues and leaders involved in the organ donation programme.”

Professor Knuth went on to say that the symposium builds on the success of Qatar’s first allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (allogeneic HSCT), performed late last year. A multi-disciplinary team from the NCCCR performed Qatar’s first allogeneic HSCT on a 34-year-old female patient diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer.

The keynote lecture titled ‘Saving Lives by Stem Cell Donation’ promoted and encouraged stem cell donation. Representatives from Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar, the Qatar Organ Donor Programme, NCCCR, HMC’s interim Transitional Research Institute, the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit and the Blood Transfusion Service highlighted the important role of stem cell donation and research during a poster presentation.

Last year, the NCCCR’s stem cell donor team was invited to present their work at the Asia Pacific Blood and Marrow Transplantation Conference in Tehran, Iran and the World Marrow Donor Association’s annual conference in Minneapolis, the US.

Qatar’s Stem Cell Donor Service is a new service that was established at NCCCR to help raise public awareness for stem cell donation and donor recruitment. The service is focused on increasing the representation of donors with human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing; this type of donor is generally underrepresented in other major international registries (ie Qatari, Arab, Asian and African decent).

“It is hoped the focus on increasing the representation of donors with HLA will provide optimally matched donors for patients in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant. Ultimately, the service will be recognised as a preferred provider of high-quality, ethically sourced and cost effective tissue allografts in the region and around the world,” HMC said in a statement.