The Sunflower Fund - Blood Stem Cell Donations

Area: Plumstead, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Region: Western Cape
Physical Address: Office 106B Richmond Centre, 174-206 Main Road, Plumstead, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Postal Address: PO Box 31163, Tokai, 7966, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)21 701 0661
Fax: +27 (0)21 701 6790
Contact Person: Traci Sassenberg

The Sunflower Fund –  Blood stem cell donations

The Sunflower Fund fights blood diseases like Leukaemia through the recruitment of stem cell donors and maintaining a registry of potential donors committed to helping anyone in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant. We fundraise to cover the cost of education and awareness about the need for and the process to become a blood stem cell donor as well as to cover the cost of the HLA tissue-typing test involved in the recruitment of donors. The Sunflower Fund also maintains a patient support fund to assist patients who are unable to afford costs associated with getting to transplant as well as being actively involved in creating a platform for support structures to assist patients, families and communities.

With an 18-year history, The Sunflower Fund prides itself in being the premier organisation in Southern Africa to recruit and create awareness about the need for stem cell donors. We provide access for tissue type testing through our partnership with Lancet laboratories and through working closely with the blood banks.

We have launched a partnership with the Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) to increase the level of HLA –typing and launched an HLA Data Centre for Africa – the first of its kind for the continent. We are also a founding member of the Stem Cell Registry Alliance (SCRA), a joint initiative of registries across the Caribbean, UK and Africa who jointly aim to recruit donors of African ancestry, primarily from the countries of the member organizations.

For more information please visit our website or call us on our toll free number (SA only) 0800 12 10 82


How would I help?

Every year thousands of South Africans of all ages and races are diagnosed with diseases such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia or some rare genetic disorders. At times their only hope of survival is a blood stem cell transplant from a donor who shares the same tissue type. Without this transplant it would mean certain death. It all depends on ordinary people like you … YOU could be the MATCH for someone with leukaemia or other life threatening blood disorders.

The chances of finding a match are about 1 in 100 000 and it could be you! You may well be the only one in the world who could save a life.

Who do we need as donors?

Every healthy person between 18 and 45 can be a donor. “Tissue-types” are inherited characteristics, and this is what is used to match donors and patients. As ethnic origin plays a significant role in the search for a donor, South Africa’s rainbow nation requires a large pool of prospective stem cell donors.

Why do people need bone marrow transplants?

A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure performed to replace bone marrow that has been damaged or destroyed by disease, infection, or chemotherapy. This procedure involves transplanting blood stem cells, which travel to the bone marrow where they produce new blood cells and promote growth of new marrow.Every year, thousands of individuals with blood diseases such as leukaemia, marrow failure or aplasia, and inherited metabolic and immune deficiency syndromes reach a stage where only a stem cell transplant can drive the disease into remission.

Why are unrelated donors needed?

Family members, particularly brothers and sisters are generally most suitable. However, due to the average family size, only a small percentage of patients have a compatible sibling match. About 75 % will have to search for an unrelated matched donor.

How do bone marrow transplants save lives?

The patient’s diseased marrow is destroyed by combinations of cytotoxic drugs and radiation. The stem cells from the healthy donor is given intravenously. Thereafter the blood-forming stem cells travel to cavities in the large bones and, following engraftment, begin producing normal blood.

What is bone marrow?

This is the tissue that could be regarded as the factory for the production of red cells to carry oxygen, white cells to fight infection and platelets to prevent bleeding.

How are donors and patients matched?

In the same way as red cell blood groups exist, so white cells may be categorised into groups known as “tissue-types”. Very many possible tissue types exist, so that finding the correct match depends upon having a very large register of volunteers.

How are stem cells donated?

The stem cells may be obtained a simple procedure called peripheral blood stem cell collection ‘harvests’ the cells that are needed for a transplant. This is similar to the blood donation process but just takes a bit longer (4 to 6 hours).

Are there any side effects for the donor?

Sibling transplants have been taking place for more than 10 years; a short-term side effect is flu-like symptoms during G-CSF stimulation and a small percentage of donors have also reported mild bone pain after making the donation.

Where would I donate?

The medical procedure for obtaining stem cells is called a harvest. If you are asked to donate, you would be required to attend a specialist harvest centre in South Africa at no cost to the donor.

Is a transplant a definite cure?

Unfortunately, the field of stem cell transplantation is complex and a number of patients still die of complications, despite the best medical care.

Increasing numbers of successful transplants are being carried out using matched unrelated donors. However, donors can only be assured that they offer the hope of a future to patients whose disease would almost certainly otherwise prove fatal.

Where can I join? The Sunflower Fund recruits donors nationally through public donor drives in conjunction with the blood banks or sponsored corporate drives and wellness days. Interested parties can request their HR departments at their companies to arrange a drive or you can register telephonically via our call centre: 0800-12-10-82.

Where can I join?

The Sunflower Fund recruits donors nationally through public donor drives in conjunction with the blood banks or sponsored corporate drives and wellness days. Interested parties can request their HR departments at their companies to arrange a drive or you can register telephonically via our call centre: 0800 12 10 82.

If there are any errors in the above information, please notify us via an email to

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