December 22, 2021

Blood is critical for the treatment of young cancer patients; Red Cross blood drives offer an opportunity to help

Children, teenagers and young adults with cancer are often dependent on blood transfusions as they undergo treatment. The current blood and blood product shortage puts these already vulnerable patients in peril, says Scott Borinstein, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics, Hematology/Oncology.

“The only way to cure these aggressive cancers is to administer intensive chemotherapy, which, unfortunately, has a lot of side effects,” said Borinstein, director of the Pediatric Sarcoma Program. “In addition to causing our patients to feel weak, tired, and often nauseous, they also affect their bodies’ ability to make blood.

“Patients receiving treatment often can’t make enough of their own red blood cells and platelets and, therefore, are dependent on transfusions every week or so to support them through therapy.”

VUMC is experiencing severe shortages of O positive and O negative red blood cell units, which are expected to continue. To address this, the VUMC Blood Bank is auditing every order of O positive and O negative red blood cells for appropriateness and canceling or limiting orders that don’t meet VUMC guidelines, among other measures.

The American Red Cross holds frequent blood drives on VUMC’s 21st Avenue and One Hundred Oaks campuses. Employees and members of the public are encouraged to donate. You can sign up for an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and donate at a time convenient with your schedule at

“Thankfully, the Red Cross is always there to supply that blood that we give to our very special and extremely vulnerable patients, whenever they need it. Unfortunately, there is a critical shortage of blood right now, and we are desperately in need of volunteers. So, please donate your blood to the Red Cross, so you can help our very special patients continue the cancer fight,” Borinstein said.