International cooperation for the cure and prevention of severe hemoglobinopathies

TitleInternational cooperation for the cure and prevention of severe hemoglobinopathies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsFaulkner, L, Uderzo, C, Masera, G
Publication NameJournal of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Date Published06/2013
Other NumbersPMID: 23799526

Thalassemia major (TM) is the most frequent life-threatening noninfectious disease of childhood in the Middle East, South Asia, and Pacific Islands where it accounts for a significant proportion of childhood mortality, morbidity, and related health care expenses. In spite of major advances in supportive care during the last decade, many patients in low-income and middle-income countries still fare poorly because of high treatment costs and lack of accessible multidisciplinary teams, not to consider the risk of blood-borne infections, primarily hepatitis C. In selected low-risk patients with a compatible sibling, TM is highly curable by bone marrow transplantation (BMT), which also improves the quality of life and is cost-effective. Starting in 2008, the Cure2Children Foundation (C2C), an Italian Non-Governmental Organization, has supported a BMT network in Pakistan, which during 2012 was extended to India. The primary aim of this project was to assess feasibility, outcomes, and costs of matched-related BMT for thalassemia in young low-risk children using a well-established and tolerable strategy. A total of 100 matched-related BMTs have been performed to date by partner institutions within this C2C-supported network; in the 50 low-risk cases with TM, over 90% disease-free survival was obtained with procedure expenses within 10,000 USD/BMT, that is, an outcome comparable to that obtained in affluent countries but with a fraction of the expenses. This cure rate was also obtained in start-up BMT centers (1 in Pakistan and 1 in India) within a structured and intensive cooperation program. Twinning and other international cooperation strategies based on shared principles and a common vision may substantially facilitate access to BMT.