Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation became a common procedure at university hospitals in Johannesburg and in Cape Town in the mid-1980s. Although initially most transplants were autologous, there has been a substantial growth in allogeneic transplantation since the early 1990s, particularly in Cape Town. Several transplant groups have been established in the private sector, further increasing the scope of this activity. Early in the new millennium, there was broad recognition that stem cell transplantation would continue expanding and our scientific community needed sustained support from all stakeholders. For this reason in 2002, a group of professionals with active clinical programs held a symposium in Cape Town and invited Professor Roger Dansey from the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit as guest speaker.
Following this very successful meeting, a yearly symposium on stem cell transplantation has become a regular feature in the academic program of most South African haematologists and medical oncologists. Eminent scientists such as Professors John Goldman (London), Shimon Slavin (Jerusalem), Elianne Gluckman (Paris), Stephen Mackinnon (London), Jeff Szer (Melbourne) and Jean Luc Harousseau (Nantes) have been invited speakers at the yearly symposia. Professors Andrea Bacigalupo (Genoa) and John Barrett (NIH) attended the 2008 Symposium in Durban.
Meetings have been lively and very well attended considering the size of the transplant community. Last year at the business meeting of the symposium, it was decided to form a society and the draft constitution was approved by stakeholders. At present a steering committee is busy putting in place all the business instruments that are needed for the efficient functioning of this new society.
The steering committee wishes to acknowledge the substantial contribution by Roche Pharmaceuticals for funding the scientific meetings and providing much of the infrastructure needed for the growing of this Society. Their helping hand is much appreciated.