International marrow registries together reach 25 million donor milestone

Record number of potential marrow donors gives renewed hope to blood cancer patients

Ottawa, ON—Canadian Blood Services’ stem cell registry called OneMatch is part of a network that now has a record number of people listed as potential stem cell donors. Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW) brings together an international registry of donors, and along with the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) announced today that 25 million people worldwide are potential volunteer stem cell donors. These donors could help save the lives of people  battling multiple life-threatening diseases. This significant milestone gives greater hope to patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals around the world.

“More than 80 per cent of Canadian patients receive stem cells from donors in other countries. At any given time, close to 1000 Canadian patients are waiting for a stem cell transplant,” said Canadian Blood Services Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, Dr. Dana Devine. “Because our OneMatch program belongs to an international network of registries, and we are now able to provide access to 25 million donors, it really increases the odds of finding a match. With continuing support from our diverse communities here at home, and because of our ongoing work with WMDA and our international partner registries, many other patients will have opportunities to find a lifesaving match,” she said.

Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is one of the top ten largest registries in the world and is dedicated to recruiting and finding healthy, committed volunteer donors for patients in need of stem cell transplants. Canadian Blood Services is proud to be part of the international network. Since becoming an accredited registry with the WMDA in 2006, Canadian donors have not only donated stem cell products to international patients; they have received life saving stem cells from international donors.  

BMDW was created in 1989 as a collaborative effort among eight countries and has grown to a community of 53 countries that are working together to achieve a centralized file of all potential volunteer marrow donors worldwide. This resource is crucial for patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant, because in nearly 50 percent of blood stem cell transplants, the donor and the patient come from different countries.

BMDW works closely with the WMDA—an association responsible for establishing consistent, high-quality standards for worldwide marrow donor registries—and provides a comprehensive list of potential marrow donors and donated umbilical cord blood units, primarily from WMDA member registries and cord blood banks. The BMDW global database is easily accessible to physicians to search on behalf of their patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant.

Professor Dr. Jon J. van Rood, founder of BMDW, said, “Today we celebrate a remarkable 25 million potential marrow donors on worldwide registries. Thanks to these 25 million potential volunteer donors, 250,000 patients have found their match and received an unrelated marrow transplant. But our work is not done. We need more potential donors to join registries around the world, as an equal number of patients have searched for a donor and could not find one.”

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with a blood cancer. A marrow or cord blood transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for more than 70 different diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease. Other diseases include aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, inherited immune deficiency disorders and inherited metabolic disorders.

Michael Boo, J.D., president of WMDA, was thrilled to announce the milestone. “We are so grateful for the millions of people around the world who have volunteered to be the cure. Every person who has joined a marrow donor registry moves us closer to finding a marrow donor for every patient in need,” said Boo. “Our goal as a global community is to continue to grow this inventory of donors and cord blood units by adding more than one million potential volunteer marrow donors and cord blood units from an increasing number of countries each year,” continued Boo.

The importance of adding more potential marrow donors and cord blood units to the worldwide registries is underscored by the constantly increasing use of transplants as a treatment for a wider range of diseases. An exponential rise in all types of blood stem cell transplants, particularly from unrelated donors, has occurred since the first successful unrelated transplant in 1973. U.K.-based Anthony Nolan, the world’s first marrow donor registry, began recruiting potential volunteer marrow donors in 1974. Today, unrelated transplants are often as successful as those that use sibling donors.

The BMDW global database provides a unique service to transplant centres and registries searching on behalf of patients from around the world who are trying to find the best match for patients in need of a life-saving blood stem cell or marrow transplant and who do not have a matching sibling. By providing a single registry for listing all available adult volunteer marrow donors and cord blood units, it provides a quick and thorough search service, reporting on whether and where a good match can be found. In 2014, over 225,000 search requests were made for patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant.


About BMDW

To find the best matched donor for a patient, the first step is to look into BMDW, the global database, where all potential donors and cord blood units are listed. The database is available for physicians who can quickly look and determine within a few minutes if there is chance for a match for their patients.

BMDW is operated by Europdonor Foundation, a Dutch nonprofit organization. For more information, visit:


About WMDA

Worldwide, over 50,000 patients per year are looking for a matched donor outside their family.

Nearly 50% of the patients that find a donor find his or her perfectly matched donor in another country. WMDA works towards a global standardization by establishing an accreditation programme for registries. The accreditation programme ensures that organizations protect the welfare of the donors and high-quality stem cells for patients worldwide.

WMDA is an international association. To learn more, visit: