16th February 2023, Bangalore: This International Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, DKMS announces DKMS-BMST Patient Funding Programme. With the program, the organization aims to support financially underprivileged blood cancer and blood disorder patients in India by covering a part of the treatment costs for patients meeting the eligibility criteria. Each case is evaluated against a set of pre-defined socio-economic criteria. In addition, eligible funding requests are reviewed by a Medical Advisory Committee consisting of experienced transplant physicians. As an international and multifaceted non-profit organization, DKMS employs a wide range of programs and services to help patients worldwide.
With an aim to improve the situation for patients in India, the DKMS-BMST Patient Funding Programme and the DKMS-BMST Thalassemia Programme are initiated under the umbrella of the DKMS mission to increase Access to Transplantation for underprivileged patients.
Help, where help is needed
Every year, over 1 lakh people are diagnosed with blood cancer or a blood disorder such as Thalassemia or Aplastic Anemia in India. With over 42 million carriers, the country is also known as the Thalassemia Capital of the world. The most effective treatment for such life-threatening diseases is a blood stem cell transplant, ideally at an early age. Even for those patients who do get access to therapy and appropriate health care, this often results in heavy social and financial burdens on patients and their families.
For Indian patients, particularly from middle and lower-middle-class families, the situation is not just dire, but also very challenging. Guidance related to treatment, financial support, and planning, are the most critical factors affecting access to transplantation in India.
The organization has already started enrolling patients under the DKMS-BMST Patient Funding Programme.
One of the patients who benefitted from the program, was Diganth, a 10-year-old boy from Bengaluru, Karnataka. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer, in 2017, when he was just 5. Since then, he underwent chemotherapy and other treatments to manage his leukemia. But in the year 2021, his condition further deteriorated and doctors recommended a stem cell transplant as his only chance at survival. Diganth’s family had to struggle a lot to manage the cost of his treatment.
His father, a carpenter said, “The doctors told us that only one thing could save my son, a stem cell transplant, which we could not afford. We had to beg for money from everyone around us. There was no stone left unturned where we didn’t have to spread our hands to ask for money to save our boy. Although I was matched as a donor for his transplant, we had no means of affording the procedure.”
Diganth was being treated at Narayana Health and his treating physician Dr. Sunil Bhat, Director & Clinical Lead, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, referred his case to DKMS BMST Foundation India. DKMS-BMST considered his case and supported him under the Patient Funding program and he successfully underwent his Haploidentical Bone Marrow transplant in September 2021. Today Diganth is doing well and studying in 4th standard.