Let's invest in umbilical cord blood and save lives

Blood cancers are killers. According to Cancer Research UK, each year Britain diagnoses 4,000 new Myeloma cases and 2,500 Myeloma sufferers die. There are 11,000 Lymphoma diagnoses each year and 4,000 deaths. There are 7,000 Leukaemia diagnoses each year and 4,000 deaths.

For many people, their only hope is a blood stem cell transplant. These transplants really are a last chance for people who have no other treatment available. At any given time, around sixteen hundred people in Britain are waiting for a matched donor for a transplant – hoping to survive long enough to get that chance.

In 1988, for the first time, a stem cell transplant took place using cells retrieved from a donated umbilical cord and since then, scientists have been discovering all sorts of advantages to the use of cord blood. The extent of these effects is such that a cord blood bank would only have to maintain 50,000 units to provide for the bulk of Britain’s unmet need for stem cells beyond the 770,000 registered adult donors.

A further advantage is the readiness of the stem cells retrieved from umbilical cords. They are collected, tissue typed and frozen after the birth of the child and then are made available as soon as a patient requires them. This radically reduces the waiting time before a patient can access a transplant. Currently the average time it takes for a patient to receive their transplant is 160 days. Over those 160 days, many patients become progressively weaker, as do the chances of a successful transplant.

With such obvious advantages, it is no surprise that globally the proportion of transplants undertaken using cord blood is increasing every year. Yet where Britain once led, we are now falling behind the US, France, Germany and Spain. All of those countries now outstrip our cord blood collection, inhibiting our research capacity in this field.

There are 700,000 births each year in the UK and in almost every single instance, the umbilical cord is discarded as medical waste. The Government is nudging people to voluntarily agree to donate their organs upon death. Why not a nudge to encourage mothers to consider donating the umbilical cord?

For an investment of 50 million pounds, spread over five years, Britain can have that 50,000 unit cord blood bank. A 50,000 unit blood bank would provide economies of scale that would reduce the cost to the NHS for every treatment as well as radically reducing the need to import stem cell units from abroad, which is a common and expensive practice today. We often talk about investing to save but in this case it would save not just £6 million but 200 lives a year.

In a Parliament that will be characterised by the difficult decisions it makes, this is one decision I believe we can’t afford not to take.

Easter Newsletter

Apart from Cadbury's most people recognise Easter, particularly Christians as we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A dedicated holiday on Good Friday highlights our enduring Christian heritage. As for me I will have contrasting experiences of Easter. On Good Friday I will attend the Greek Orthodox service at St Demetrios Church and join with many hundred in procession around the church. On Saturday 22nd April at 7.30pm I will be taking part in a dramatic presentation at my church in Enfield (www.eefc.net) donning a wig and gown as a Defence Counsel in a case about the evidence for the Resurrection entitled 'Who moved the stone?'

I recognise my Jewish constituents are also celebrating a most significant time in their calendar remembering the Passover. For others it is simply a time to be with the family and eat lots of chocolate! However you will be celebrating Easter, I send you my best wishes.

David Burrowes MP


North London Hospice


The North London Hospice is looking for at least two trustees to join its Board.

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Save our Southgate

The Boundary Commission proposals dismember Enfield Southgate which has a proud history and a cohesive identity and community which demands more respect.

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Drop in surgeries – no appointment necessary just turn up

First Friday of the month at the Constituency Office from 4 - 6pm – please call the constituency office beforehand to confirm the details.

Last Saturday of the month in the Barclays Bank offices above their branch at the Triangle in Palmers Green 2-4 Aldermans Hill (next door to Starbucks) from 9.30am to 11.30am.  Entrance to the offices is from within the Bank.

Appointment Surgeries - held at the Constituency Office in Winchmore Hill on the second, third and fourth Fridays of each month either between 10-12am or 3–5pm

Please call the constituency office on 0208 360 0234 to arrange a time and date.

Constituency Office address – 1c Chaseville Parade, Chaseville Park Road, Winchmore Hill, N21 1PG