Director's Message

Dr. Randal Wada
(Medical Director)
"If a little bit is good and more is better, then too much is just right."

Unfortunately just a third of all patients needing a transplant have an appropriately matched related donor. Until recently, the sole alternative for the rest was in registries of adult volunteers who are willing to donate bone marrow or blood stem cells to perfect strangers. While there are over twelve million of these wonderful donors in the United States alone (including over 70,000 in the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry), the racial and ethnic diversity of our local patients continues to pose a special challenge to finding matches. All too frequently we come up empty handed, with heartbreaking consequences for our patients, their families, and the medical team. It is one thing for a patient to decline a transplant because it seems too risky. It is another thing all together to tell them that they don’t even have a choice.

HCBB was founded with the goal of reducing the number of these sad conversations. The blood left over in a newborn baby’s umbilical cord contains the same kind of stem cells as bone marrow. After the baby is delivered and the cord is cut, this blood can be collected and the stem cells processed and frozen. Stored cord blood stem cells last for decades. If matched, they can be made available to any patient, anywhere, any time. Cord blood stem cells are more forgiving than those from bone marrow. They don’t have to match the patient as closely, and yet can give equivalent or perhaps better results than bone marrow. This makes it especially attractive for hard to match patients such as ours. Partially matched cord blood from two different donors can even be combined to transplant a larger adult patient. Cord blood has surpassed bone marrow as a stem cell source for unrelated donor transplants in the United States, allowing many more patients to undergo transplant.

Since its inception, HCBB has benefited from the Aloha of thousands of local families who chose to donate their babies’ cord blood; of over a hundred local physicians and countless more nurses who donate their time and expertise to do the collections; of generous supporters such as Emily Castle, Elisabeth Sturges, the Gamar Foundation, and the Alana Dung Research Foundation; and of local hospitals which donate facilities and space.