Legalising safe treatment

20 April 2011
In 2004 a new EU directive on blood products made Donor Lymphocyte Infusion (DLI), a life-saving leukaemia treatment, illegal in UK transplant centres.  We quickly took action to preserve this vital treatment.

DLI can be used when patients relapse following a bone marrow transplant.

The procedure uses white blood cells from the same bone marrow donor to boost the life-saving effects of the original transplant. In around 10% of cases it saves the child’s life.

New EU legislation required all blood products to be produced in a licensed blood factory, not in the transplant centre where DLI are produced, and which are only licensed for producing stem cells not for producing blood.

This caused a huge dilemma for doctors, like Mark Lowdell at the Paul O’Gorman Centre, Royal Free Hospital, who did not want to break the law but wanted to keep saving children’s lives. 

"The issues surrounding the quality of producing DLI are exactly the same as those for producing stem cells for transplant and it was a complete nonsense that centres licensed to produce stem cells would not be licensed to produce DLI from the very same donors to treat the same patients, because of some bureaucracy."

CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA decided that action must be taken to secure the future of this treatment. One of our trustees had meetings with the Minister of State for Public Health, Caroline Flint MP, and Baroness Hayman, Chair of the Human Tissue Authority. As a result, DLI has been reclassified and can now continue legally.

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