Demand for collection procedures remains high

Demand for transplant material from unrelated donors from Switzerland was once again high in 2023, although it did not reach the all-time high set in 2022. A new record was reached in the area of confirmatory typing, though, and we were able to celebrate the performance of the 1000th procedure to collect blood stem cells in Switzerland.

Demand for Swiss donors for patients both in Switzerland and abroad continues to remain high (2023: 81 collections and 1 unit of cord blood).

When someone listed in the Swiss registry comes up as a possible donor, Swiss Transfusion SRC ascertains whether that person is willing and able to donate and arranges for confirmatory typing to verify their HLA markers. In 2023, confirmatory typing was performed for 360 individuals (2022: 325), i.e. an increase of almost 10 per cent over the previous year.

In 2023, 81 procedures were performed on Swiss donors to collect blood stem cells for unrelated recipients; that is 8 fewer than in 2022 (89). Three of these were secondary collections, meaning that three persons returned to donate a second time. Seven of the procedures were performed in order to collect material for patients in Switzerland (2022: 6). Only one unit of cord blood from Switzerland (4) was used in a transplant procedure (2022: 4).

Switzerland’s 1000th blood stem cell donation

In the summer of 2023, blood stem cells were collected from an unrelated donor in Switzerland for the 1000th time. Since 1992, a thousand people in Switzerland have donated their blood stem cells with the intent of saving the life of someone who is suffering from a potentially fatal blood disease like leukaemia.

This affords a welcome occasion for Swiss Transfusion SRC to thank all donors for their selfless act. At the same time, we wish to pass along the thanks of the patients, as well, who speak of their transplantation as “the greatest of gifts” and the donation as a “selfless act”.

From the search to the provision

Swiss Transfusion SRC searches for suitable donors for patients in Switzerland and throughout the world. In 2023, it received 244 search requests from Swiss transplant centres, compared to 252 in 2022.

Once a definitive decision on a donor has been made, arrangements must be made to get their blood stem cells to the patient at the right time. Swiss Transfusion SRC liaises between the collection and transplant centres and is responsible for seeing that the transplant material arrives precisely on schedule. This involves substantial organisational and logistical challenges, because 72 hours is the maximum amount of time permissible between the collection and transplantation of blood stem cells. Swiss Transfusion is also responsible for arranging the transport of transplant material for Swiss patients collected from unrelated donors, the vast majority of whom do not live in Switzerland.

In 2023, Swiss Transfusion SRC received a total of 449 “work-up requests” (2022: 417), i.e. requests to arrange for transplant procedures for patients in Switzerland or for collection procedures involving Swiss donors.

Rise in numbers of transplant procedures in Switzerland

A total of 328 transplant procedures (2022: 287) were performed in Switzerland in 2023, transplanting material collected from unrelated donors (199) or from relatives (129). Among the procedures involving unrelated donors, 187 were initial transplant procedures, (2022: 168) and 12 were secondary procedures (2022: 7).

The number of people undergoing CAR T cell therapy in Switzerland continues to rise. In 2023, 174 patients underwent CAR T cell therapy in Switzerland (2022: 128), which is four times the total for 2019 (43). CAR T cell therapies involve the use of genetic engineering techniques to modify immune cells so that they will recognise and attack cancer cells. The patient’s own immune cells (T cells) are taken from their blood, modified in the laboratory and then infused back into the patient.

Omnia: on course

Omnia is Flowable-based workflow software intended to support the staff in their activities relating to the core process of SBSC. The software processes information, interlinks systems and connects those involved – including both internal and external actors. Omnia contains sensitive health and personal data that must be provided with a high level of protection. The complexity resulted in an increased demand for development resources in 2023. By modifying the concept and the organisation of the project, it was possible to take the increasing requirements into account. The process “search for Swiss recipients” is slated to “go live” in the first quarter of 2024.

National Data Management and Research Center for Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, NDRC

In order to understand, analyse and monitor the efficacy of therapies, outcome data is recorded and continuously analysed. In Switzerland, blood stem cell transplant procedures fall under the Intercantonal Agreement on Highly Specialised Medical Services (IVHSM), which requires annual reporting. Up until now, University Hospital Basel carried out the annual analysis for Swiss Blood Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (SBST). In the future, Swiss Transfusion SRC will take over this task. It will start recruiting the necessary personnel in 2024.