Héma-Québec, the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine and St. Mary's Hospital Centre successfully complete the trial period for Québec's Public Cord Blood Bank

Dr. Francine Décary, President and Chief Executive Officer of Héma-Québec, Dr. Bruce Brown, Manager of Professional Services at St. Mary's Hospital Centre and Dr. Martin Champagne, Hematologist and Director of the medullar transplant department at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine.

Montréal, June 17, 2004 — Héma-Québec, the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine and St. Mary's Hospital Centre hereby announce that the trial period in relation to setting up a Public Cord Blood Bank has been successfully conducted.

The three partners had initially agreed to conduct a trial period which ended on April 29, 2004. Its purpose was to validate each of the steps in the procedure, from consent to freezing of cord blood, and including actual cord blood collection. The partners also wished to identify the best material and equipment to be used, in order to meet Health Canada's regulations. During the trial period, the doctors and nurses at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine and at St. Mary's Hospital Centre who were involved in this Québec program received training from Héma-Québec.

" Héma-Québec recognizes its partners' commitment to this program. Each of them brings important expertise in terms of number of child deliveries, but also in multicultural recruiting in the case of St. Mary's Hospital Centre and in research and clinical expertise at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine. Thanks to the specificity of their services and patients, these two hospital centres allow us to better respond to the needs of the community and in particular to those of cultural groups," points out Dr. Francine Décary, President and Chief Executive Officer of Héma-Québec.

During this trial period, a total number of 562 cord blood donations were collected, thanks to a sterile in utero method used in the delivery rooms at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine and St. Mary's Hospital Centre. The data collected allowed us to determine that the ideal time limit between the collection and the processing of cord blood is a maximum of 36 hours. As for the validation of the treatment method for cord blood, it was shown that the technique selected ensures a recovery rate of more than 80% from the buffy coat in which the hematopoietic stem cells are found. Furthermore, the number of donations collected, the volume collected (85 mL) and the cell count by blood bag, as well as the conservation rate for the bags are representative of the results observed at other public cord banks worldwide.

Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord once it has been cut, after the birth of the child. This procedure, which is less invasive than the collection of bone marrow, poses no danger to either mother or child. If it is not collected, it is discarded as biomedical waste, as is the placenta.

" During the past three years, we have had to develop protocols and a certification process for this project, and undertook testing which required the cooperation of all of the physicians who deliver babies and the nursing staff working in the delivery rooms, as well as the expertise of other stakeholders such as the hematology laboratory at St. Mary's," said Dr. Bruce Brown, Manager of Professional Services at St. Mary's Hospital Centre. "The project received considerable support from senior management, and St. Mary's Hospital Centre is proud that it has been able to raise interest and obtain the assistance of its obstetrical clientele to offer this unique treatment to the children who need it," he added.

The goal of the Public Cord Blood Bank program in Québec is to create a collective resource of hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood, and to provide a supply of optimal quality to meet the needs of patients waiting for a transplant of these cells.

" Transplanting cord blood is a medical technique that has been used in the treatment of cancer for sixteen years now, after the first such transplant in the world was conducted in 1988. Since 1996, the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine has performed 53 transplants of this kind on young patients, including nine in 2003 and eight this year. We have been responsible for 85% of such transplants in Canada. With the Quebec Public Cord Blood Bank, we will gradually and significantly increase the chances of finding unrelated compatible donors for patients whose chances of survival depend on bone marrow transplants," said Dr. Champagne, Hematologist and Director of the medullar transplant department at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine.

It should be noted that the Research Centre at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine recently received a major research subsidy to work with the Quebec Public Cord Blood Bank to study the biological and immunological characteristics of transplanted cells. This research will give a better understanding of how the cord blood transplant technique actually works.

Héma-Québec's mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components, substitutes and human tissues to meet the needs of all Quebeckers; and to provide and develop expertise and services, along with specialized and innovative products, in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.

St. Mary's Hospital Centre is a university affiliated community hospital which serves a multicultural population. We seek to provide the highest level of patient and family focused care.

The CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine is the only university-affiliated hospital dedicated exclusively to the health of children, adolescents and mothers in Québec. Its clinicians are also responsible for training specialists and other mother-child healthcare professionals in pediatrics. Its research teams devote their work to all areas concerning the health of mothers and children. Evaluating technologies and promoting health are also part of the institution's mission.

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