Taiwan link marks new era for leukaemia victims
By MICHELLE CHIN
TWO leukaemia patients will start the New Year with fresh hope for the future after the discovery of prospective bone marrow donors in Taiwan.
Queen Mary Hospital's bone marrow unit is now carrying out further tests on blood samples from the two Taiwanese to see if their white cell tissue matches that of the dying patients.
If it does, the operations are expected to take place in February at the earliest, accord-ing to Dr Raymond Liang Hin-suen, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Marrow Match Foundation.
The move marks a new era for patients who cannot get a local donor.
The two male patients, in their 30s and suffering acute and chronic leukaemia, have failed to find donors from their web of relatives or in the local registry.
Having waited for a donor for five months, the acute patient now needs an operation urgently, said Dr Liang.
Two weeks ago, the Marrow Match Foundation linked up with the Taiwan's Chi Tzi Buddhist Charity Foundation, a move which makes the donor registry more than five times bigger.
The local data bank has more than 18,000 names, and there are 100,000 in Taiwan.
However, bone marrow from non-Chinese is not suitable.
'It is not easy to find a donor from the US even though it has a pool of over one million donors,' said Dr Liang. 'The difficulty is there are not many Chinese donors.
'Now we have a reciprocal relationship with the bank in Taiwan, we hope more patients are able to find donors through their help.' The foundation will contribute about $60,000 for a transplant, half of the fee Taiwan receives for a bone marrow extraction operation.
China had also considered establishing a data bank, said Dr Liang, and was experimenting with university students in Beijing.
The two Queen Mary patients are among 50 locals who cannot find a donor in Hong Kong.
The foundation has sent details of 20 patients to Taiwan for matching.
In 1992, a patient received bone marrow from a Chi-nese donor from the United States but died afterwards because the marrow was rejected.