What is OneMatch all about?
OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is responsible for finding and matching volunteer donors for patients who require stem cell transplants. Fewer than 30 per cent of patients who need stem cell transplants find a compatible donor within their own families. The rest rely on those who have volunteered to donate stem cells to anyone in need.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are registered in the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry (UBMDR), you are already a part of OneMatch. You do not need to register again.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are immature cells that can become either:
- red blood cells (which carry oxygen),
- white blood cells (which fight infection)or
- platelets (which help to stop bleeding).
Bone marrow is a rich source of stem cells, but stem cells can also be found in our circulating blood (also known as peripheral blood) and umbilical cord blood. OneMatch donors may be asked to donate either stem cells from bone marrow or peripheral blood depending on which product the patient requires.
What is a stem cell transplant?
In a stem cell transplant, a patient's diseased marrow is replaced with healthy stem cells from a donor. To prepare for the transplant, the recipient is usually given high doses of radiation and/or chemotherapy to destroy the diseased marrow. At this point, stripped of the ability to manufacture life-giving blood cells, the recipient is extremely vulnerable. They will not survive unless the donor proceeds with the donation. Once the healthy stem cells are collected from the donor, it is given intravenously to the recipient as soon as possible.
What diseases are treated with stem cell transplants?
A variety of diseases and disorders are treated with stem cell transplants including blood-related diseases such as leukemia, aplastic anemia and inherited immune system and metabolic disorders.
How does OneMatch work?
OneMatch maintains a database of tissue typing results of all Canadian prospective donors. Whenever a patient requires a stem cell transplant, OneMatch is able to search this database to identify potential matching donors.
Because Canadian Blood Services' OneMatch is a member of an international network of registries, we can also search more than 11 million donors on over 50 registries in other countries. By agreeing to make their donor data available worldwide, international registries have significantly increased the odds of being able to find a matching donor for any patient, anywhere in the world.
What does this mean to me as a potential donor?
Joining OneMatch represents a long-term commitment to donate stem cells to anyone in need. This commitment is what enables OneMatch to do its work. It is extremely unlikely that you will match a particular individual in your community, and it may be years before you are called to donate. In fact, you may never be called.
Even if you do not have the opportunity to donate stem cells, it doesn't diminish the value of your contribution in any way. By joining, you've made an extraordinarily generous commitment, one that gives many patients a better chance at survival and more hope for the future.
What kinds of donors are needed?
A person's best chance of finding a matching donor is within his or her own ethnic group, it is important that the composition of OneMatch reflect Canada's rich ethnic diversity. It is also important for the future of OneMatch to attract young donors.
What do you mean by a "match"?
Donors and patients are matched according to the compatibility of inherited genetic markers called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). These antigens are inherited from your parents. Up to 12 antigens are considered important in the matching process.
Is there a matching donor for every patient who needs a stem cell transplant?
Even with millions of donors on registries worldwide, a perfect stem cell match isn't always available. Some patients have uncommon antigens that may be very difficult to match. In these instances, even with everyone's best efforts, it may be impossible to find a donor. It is for this reason that OneMatch is committed to building the diversity of the database by increasing the number of potential donors who possess unusual antigens.
Does joining OneMatch cost me anything?
No. Joining OneMatch is free and you won't be charged for any part of the testing or donation process.
Do people on OneMatch ever get to know the individuals they are helping?
Exchange of information between donor and recipient is not permitted for at least one year after transplant. After a year, some registries will allow correspondence, while others never permit any exchange of information. We will let you know about the policy in your recipient's country one year following the transplant.
Who is eligible to join OneMatch?
You may be eligible to join if you are between 17 and 50 years old and meet certain health criteria. Health problems that could make you ineligible include some heart conditions, cancer, blood diseases, insulin-dependent diabetes and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C.
There are also height and weight restrictions in place to protect both donors and recipients. People who do not meet the program's height/weight criteria may be at a higher risk when undergoing general anaesthesia. For safety reasons, eligibility criteria are followed carefully.
What about transmissible diseases?
You should not apply to join OneMatch if you have a disease that can be transmitted by blood such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. If you have any questions about whether you might have a transmissible disease, we urge you to go to a public health clinic or to your physician for testing. Canadian Blood Services does not test for transmissible diseases in the first stages of matching. This testing only takes place if and when you are in the final matching stages.
Can I be tested specifically for my relative?
Your relative's transplant physician is responsible for identifying potential matches within your family and arranging for this testing.
Can I be tested specifically for my friend?
It is highly unlikely that two friends will share the same genetic profile. The best hope for any patient lies with the potential donors who are already listed worldwide. However, as long as you are willing to donate to any patient, and you meet the program's eligibility requirements - you can be tested and join OneMatch.
What happens when I decide to join?
We will book an appointment for you to submit a sample for HLA testing and your name will be added to the database. In the event that your name comes up as a likely match for a patient, we will contact you. At that point, it is up to you to decide whether you want to proceed to the next step.
What if I'm a match?
Being a match is an exciting experience. But it is still only a first step. Your blood needs to undergo additional testing to determine the full extent of your compatibility. And you will also need to be tested for transmissible diseases.
If you are selected to donate, you will be contacted by a registered nurse from OneMatch who will guide you through each step of the process. You will be required to complete a physical examination and routine medical tests. These tests may include a chest X-ray and electrocardiogram, as well as blood and urine analyses. They are intended to ensure that you are healthy and physically eligible to be a donor.
During this time you should address any concerns you may still have. If you agree to proceed, the patient will be notified and the elimination of his or her diseased bone marrow will begin.
What if I say no?
You are free to decline to donate at any point in the process and your decision will remain entirely confidential. You should be aware that there is a serious risk of death to the patient if you decide to withdraw after his or her radiation or chemotherapy treatment has begun. You will be told in advance exactly when the patient will start this treatment and given every opportunity to decline before that date.
How do I donate bone marrow?
Bone marrow stem cell donation is a surgical procedure performed under anaesthesia. The collection physician will use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones. Normally about a litre of fluid is taken. The procedure usually lasts from 45-90 minutes. The collection includes blood along with the stem cells from your bone marrow. Total volume ranges from under 0.5 litres to as much as 1.5 litres, depending on your size and the size of the recipient. Both blood and stem cells from your bone marrow are replenished within six weeks.
What are the risks involved in donating bone marrow?
Experience has shown that bone marrow donation is a safe procedure. There are some risks associated with anesthesia, and these vary with the type of anesthesia. Infection at the site of the bone marrow collection is very rare and can be treated with antibiotics. Nerve, bone or other tissue damage is also very rare and may require additional medical treatment. All of these risks will be explained prior to donation. We encourage you to make a list of questions and to get all the answers you need to feel completely comfortable in proceeding.
What are the short-term side effects?
You can expect to feel some soreness in your lower back for a few days or longer. Most donors are back to their normal routine in a few days. Your marrow is completely replaced within six weeks.
Stimulated peripheral blood stem cell donation
Another way to donate stem cells is through your circulating blood. To increase the number of stem cells in your peripheral blood, you will receive injections of a drug called granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) every day for four to five days. The stem cells are then collected using a procedure called apheresis where your blood is drawn through a needle. The blood is then passed through a centrifuge where the stem cells are separated from the rest of your blood. The remaining blood is returned back into your body through another needle. This is a non-surgical procedure.
The apheresis procedure is commonly used in a variety of situations - for example, plasma donors may undergo apheresis up to 52 times a year. The long-term side effects (more than ten years) of the drug used to stimulate the production of stem cells are unknown at this time. Possible short-term side effects include mild to moderate bone pain, muscle pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, and redness or pain at the injection site.
What will it cost me to be a donor?
OneMatch will reimburse expenses you incur as a result of donating stem cells. For example, if you have to go to another city for the collection procedure, we cover travel and accommodation costs for you and a companion. While the procedure and subsequent recovery will take you away from work for a short time, experience has shown that most employers are willing to give sick time or paid leave to stem cell donors.
What is the outlook for patients who receive stem cell transplants?
Transplant outcome depends on many factors including the level of compatibility between the donor and the recipient, the stage of the disease, the type of disease, the age of the recipient and the age of the donor. There are not any guarantees for the patient, but a transplant may be the best hope of returning to good health.
What if I move?
It is critically important that you let us know when your contact information changes. This can be done by calling us toll-free or visiting our Web site. We also appreciate being advised if your health status has changed in a way that may affect your eligibility to donate.
I want to join OneMatch. What are the next steps?
You have already completed the first step of joining OneMatch. If you have further questions about what you have learned here, call us toll-free at 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283), or e-mail us at