The Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry was created and operates with the aim of facilitating the process of finding matching donors for patients with leukemia or other hematologic malignancies and related diseases. The most appropriate time for a doctor to contact the Karaiskakio Foundation is when the patient’s diagnosis has been verified and it has been decided that at some point in the patient’s treatment there will be a need for bone marrow transplantation.
The preliminary investigation in order to find a matching donor comprises of the initial typing of the patient and their immediate family members (siblings, parents and children). At the same time a search of the existing donors on the registry and a search of donors which are currently recorded in Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) is conducted.
A preliminary search can only be requested by the attending physician (usually a Hematologist or Oncologist), when they consider that the patient may need allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. A search can also be requested by any transplant center or by any other formal bone marrow donor registry, but never from the patient.
Initial typing of the immediate family members is very important because they are the most likely to be compatible. By processing the results and determining the HLA haplotype (group of antigens inherited by the patient from both parents), the next steps for the search for a compatible donor can be organized more efficiently.
After the search within the immediate family members of the patient is completed without finding a matching donor, then, based on the frequency of the two haplotypes of the patient in the population, the search for a matching donor is targeted to the extended family environment of the father or mother (uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.). In the event that both parents of the patient are from the same village, then the search is focused on the residents of this village.
The official search starts only when it is decided that a bone marrow transplantation is absolutely necessary. It requires the referral of the patient to a transplant center and also the briefing and further laboratory testing of potential donors.
When a matching donor has not been found within the immediate or extended family or among the existing bone marrow donors of the registry, the investigation is extended to donors who are currently recorded in the Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide registry (BMDW). At the same time, a parallel search is carried out for an alternative source of graft such as the umbilical cord blood.
Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) is the result of a collaboration of dozens of donor registries which have deposited their records in an electronic archive. The volunteer donors in BMDW number more than 20 million, to whom the Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry has direct access via the internet.
The completion of a search for a matching donor could take anything from a few days to a few months, depending on the tissue type of the patient. Therefore, it is very important for the physician to refer the patient to Karaiskakio Foundation directly and promptly after diagnosis for the necessary search to begin in a timely manner.
The whole process of finding a donor for a patient is expensive. Nonetheless Karaiskakio Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, takes care of securing the necessary financial resources needed to carry out the search without any financial burden to the patient or their family.
The Karaiskakio Foundation has received funding under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism in the Programming Period 2009-2014, for upgrading part of its infrastructure, advancement of expertise on the subject, promotion of public awareness and enhancement the bone marrow donor registry in Cyprus. Aiming to improve public health and reduce health inequalities, through the proposed project, the Karaiskakio Foundation has enhanced its local health infrastructure with the establishment of a state-of-the art, specialised Childhood Cancer Diagnostic Laboratory which provides diagnostic support to the paediatric and other cancer patients.
The establishment of the Childhood Cancer Diagnostic Laboratory contributes towards:
• Technological progress in the diagnostic field and better understanding of cancer pathology, improvement of patient health and reduction of health inequalities
• Integrated and comprehensive analysis at the early stage of disease identification and classification, management, and treatment
• Structured, systematic and comprehensive laboratory support to patients, hence minimizing the time needed for diagnosis
• Opportunities to young scientists to excel in the field of cancer, invest in people through education
• Increase Social Awareness on cancer.
A parallel objective of the project is the enhancement of the Bone Marrow Donor Registry with new volunteer donors. The challenge is to find the means to attract and to cultivate the feeling of altruism in young adults, through modern means of communication (e.g., apps, social media, self-service stations, short videos etc).
The project further enhances the collaboration of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot Communities in Cyprus.
The Karaiskakio Foundation is already engaged in bi-communal collaboration through the Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry, the greatest in significance and size bi-communal project since 1974. The Kemal Saracoglu Association (a Turkish Cypriot NGO) actively supports the Karaiskakio Foundation in contacting donors and serves as a contact point to help Turkish Cypriot patients and physicians to access the services of the Foundation. Furthermore, the Karaiskakio Foundation is providing both diagnostic and donor search services free of charge to all leukaemia and cancer patients from both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot community.