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How does the SANBS STS Department help cancer patients?

June 2, 2024 Word for Word Media 0Comment

We all know that blood donations saves lives, but how does the Specialised Therapeutic Services Department at The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) help cancer patients? We learn more.

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SANBS is committed to providing blood products and services to all of our patients, a large number of those patients are affected by cancer. We aim to be a reliable centre of excellence to support our patients through the toughest times.

At SANBS, there are multiple departments that work in harmony to ensure the provision of quality, cost-effective blood products and services. One such department is called the Specialised Therapeutic Services (STS) Department.

Specialised Therapeutic Services Department

The STS Department performs procedures that enable healthcare providers to obtain or remove red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma for medical treatment services; these are called apheresis procedures.

These services help patients by performing cellular depletions (when there are high numbers of abnormal cancer cells), cellular and plasma exchanges (exchanges of abnormal cells or defective plasma for donor cells and donor plasma) and also cell collections (stem cell, lymphocyte and granulocyte collections for donation in transplants amongst others).

The STS team offers a mobile service and comes to the bedside of patients who require these specific therapies. We use specialised equipment and blood products to provide treatment to patients in need. We travel to various hospitals in South Africa at the request of doctors. From 2019 to date, we have serviced 81 hospitals with more than 90 sub-specialist units in eight provinces, excluding the Western Cape.

We follow evidence-based guidelines for the use of therapeutic apheresis in clinical practice with reference to the American Society for Apheresis. Our department boasts a team of sixteen therapeutic specialists who achieved their clinical apheresis skills competency through the SANBS learning and development programme, together with supplier support programmes and international certification.

Our spectacular team has been described as ‘caring, professional, well-informed, friendly and very efficient’ in our most recent patient feedback surveys. Providing a world-class service is also a goal of SANBS as a collective. Each of our procedures has its standard operation procedure and is audited for quality purposes.

Cancer patients and stem cell therapies

Clinical apheresis procedures are used to treat a variety of diseases including cancers, organ rejection, sickle cell disease, malaria and neurological diseases.

The STS Department performs haematopoietic progenitor stem cell collections (HPSC) in both private and public hospitals, which is a treatment option for some oncology patients.

We also service patients diagnosed with: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, testicular cancer and paediatric patients with neuroblastoma. This group criteria often undergoes an autologous stem cell transplant, this is when a patient’s stem cells are collected after chemotherapy and they are frozen and stored for transplantation at a later stage.

Another service we provide is for when donors who donate stem cells for patients diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukaemia, T-cell lymphoma, acute myeloid leukaemia and mast cell leukaemia. These donors are referred to as allogeneic stem cell donors as they donate stem cells for others.

Our HPSC programme prides itself with robust quality management and measures each stem cell collection efficiency. The STS Department has recently achieved accreditation from the Joint Accreditation Committee ISCT-Europe and EBMT (JACIE) application. JACIE is Europe’s only official accreditation body in the field of HPSC and cellular therapy.

World Blood Donor Day

To know more about our services, please visit and to find out more about becoming a stem cell donor, please contact one of the South African registries ( or

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This article was written by Dr Yona Skosana (STS Medical Manager), Dr Tanya Glatt (STS Lead Consultant) and Mr Thabo Gcayiya (STS National Manager) on behalf of SANBS.

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