Canadians Need Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells
In 2005, the Quebec provincial government funded a public cord blood bank in Montreal through Hema-Quebec. The goal was to increase the accessibility of umbilical cord blood stem cells to Quebecers of various ethnic backgrounds who were in need of bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
Hema-Quebec received funding for a public cord blood bank for Quebec, yet the rest of Canada was lacking a public bank and falling behind internationally. Dr. Virro, a practicing Obstetrician and Medical Director at a family cord blood bank, Cells For Life, recognized the undeniable need for a public cord blood bank in Canada. He determined that there was a lack of bone marrow and umbilical cord blood units available to treat patients. Meanwhile, umbilical cords and their valuable cord blood stem cells were being discarded daily into the medical waste.
In 2005, Dr. Virro and his wife, Jane Virro, established the Victoria Angel Registry of Hope as a non-profit public cord blood bank funded by the profits of their family cord blood bank. They became committed to accepting donated cord blood and making the stem cells available to physicians, patients and researchers in need. The program developed and in time they realized that they needed additional funds to help the inventory of donated cord blood units grow.
In 2011, Victoria Angel was granted charitable status. With the help of generous financial donors, more cord blood can be accepted from willing pregnant parents and their newborn babies. In 2012 and 2014, Victoria Angel successfully completed a bi-annual regulatory inspection by Health Canada. The processing laboratory at Toronto General Hospital has been accredited by AABB and FACT.
“Victoria Angel’s public cord blood bank has successfully passed regulatory inspection by Health Canada and its current program can be ramped up as funds are received. Unfortunately, due to limited funding, many willing pregnant donors have been turned away.”Jane Virro, Executive Director, Victoria Angel Public Cord Blood Bank
A Practical Alliance for Public Cord Blood Banking in Canada
In 2011, the Canadian provincial and territorial governments (excluding Quebec), announced that they were providing a combined investment of $48 million over the next eight years, including a $12.5 million fundraising campaign by Canadian Blood Services (CBS) toward the development of a national public cord blood bank.
CBS had been mandated to construct a laboratory in Ottawa between 2011-2013. and to begin providing services in one Ottawa hospital in 2013/2014. A second stem cell laboratory has been built in Edmonton. By the end of 2015, the CBS program will offer public banking in one hospital in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa and two hospitals in Toronto. Their goal is to acquire an inventory of 20,000 umbilical cord blood stem cell units by 2019. Focus will be placed on recruiting donors from minority and Aboriginal groups.
Canadians need stem cell treatments now. Victoria Angel is committed to increasing Canada’s inventory of units and to sharing their expertise with others in the field.
Victoria Angel collaborates with Hema-Quebec by sharing best practices in the laboratory. Victoria Angel’s program is essential in building an inventory of high quality umbilical cord blood stem cell units. Victoria Angel believes that demonstrating expertise through research publications, collaborative communications and projects with others in the Canadian cord blood industry develops national as well as international credibility.
It is vital for transplant physicians to have easy access to Canada’s inventory of stored umbilical cord blood stem cells. Hema-Quebec and Victoria Angel submit information about each stored unit to a highly respected international stem cell registry, the Bone Marrow Donor WorldWide (BMDW). This enables international transplant centres and physicians to have access to the current Canadian public cord blood inventory. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is planning to expand their current bone marrow registry (OneMatch) to include cord blood stem cells. This will take several years to develop.
“Every 33 minutes a Canadian is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 76 minutes someone dies of the disease.”
Sue Robson, Executive Director, Lymphoma Foundation of Canada, National Post, September 2011