Working together. Saving lives.

News

OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors to meet Dec. 5-6

The OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors will hold its semiannual meeting Dec. 5 and 6 at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis. The Board will vote on a number of proposed actions, including the following key items:

  • Substantive modifications to the system of allocating hearts for adult transplant candidates
  • Modifications to criteria for automatic approval of exception criteria for liver transplant candidates with hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Modifications to informed consent requirements for potential living donors
  • A slate of nominees for election to open Board positions for the term beginning in July 2017

The Board will also hear and discuss status updates on a number of other projects and policies in development but will not be taking votes on them at the December meeting. Key topics include:

  • Efforts to reduce geographic disparity in medical urgency scores among liver transplant candidates
  • Measuring and tracking equity in kidney allocation
  • A collaborative project to increase utilization of kidney transplantation while also piloting an alternative approach to outcome monitoring of transplant programs

UNOS will post news summaries to the OPTN and UNOS websites, and an executive summary of all Board actions will be posted as soon as available to the OPTN website. For additional information, please contact UNOS Communications at newsroom@unos.org or 804-782-4730.

At one year anniversary, HOPE Act impact continuing to be assessed

For nearly thirty years, no transplantable organs could be recovered in the United States from anyone known to be HIV-positive. While this prohibition began at a time when detection and clinical treatment of the virus were largely ineffective, it continued into an era when both detection and management have made great advances. In that time, many people who have had a long-term history of well-managed HIV treatment have encountered a more immediate health threat from end-stage organ failure.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (also known as the HOPE Act), signed into law Nov. 21, 2013, called for the use of organs from HIV-positive donors for transplantation into HIV-positive candidates under approved research protocols designed to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness and safety of such organ transplants. The provisions of the Act were made effective two years later, on Nov. 21, 2015.

Learn more

“Early indications show the HOPE Act will not only provide extended opportunities for HIV-positive candidates to receive organs, but it also offers people with HIV the potential to donate organs for the first time,” said Cameron Wolfe, M.D., chair of the OPTN/UNOS Ad Hoc Disease Transmission Advisory Committee. “For a group of individuals all too familiar with medically and socially inconsistent stigma, this can indeed offer real hope.”

As of November 18, 2016, 19 transplants (13 kidney and six liver transplants) have been performed involving organs from HIV-positive donors for HIV-positive recipients. Thirteen transplant hospitals have enrolled with the OPTN to participate in research studies, and approximately 80 candidates are currently listed to receive organ offers from HIV-positive donors.

Any participating hospital must conduct transplants under IRB-approved research protocols conforming to the Final Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act Safeguards and Research Criteria for Transplantation of Organs Infected with HIV, which were developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Organ procurement organizations are able to run matches for HIV-positive donors. The only candidates who will appear on match runs for these donor offers will be those listed at transplant programs that have an IRB-approved protocol, and whose HIV status and willingness to accept an HIV positive kidney or liver has been confirmed.

“The transplant community will be closely watching the outcomes of these transplants in a couple different ways,” said Dr. Wolfe. “First, we want to ensure the safety of patients involved. Secondly, we want to compare length of organ function and patient survival for recipients of HIV-positive organs to see if they are similar to those of HIV-negative organs. This information will help assess the feasibility of using HIV-positive donor organs, and will help clinicians advise patients to make decisions that will benefit their long-term care.”

More information about the HOPE Act and related OPTN policy is available here.

Committee continues review of input on liver distribution issues

At its meeting on October 24, 2016, the OPTN/UNOS Liver and Intestinal Organ Transplantation Committee reviewed substantial feedback from the donation and transplantation community and from the public regarding its recently circulated public comment proposal to revise liver distribution. “We appreciate the wide range of thoughtful comments and suggestions we received from all interested parties,” said Ryutaro Hirose, M.D., chairman of the committee.

The committee will further review various solutions to address geographic disparities in liver distribution, with the goal of developing a revised proposal for public comment in the near future. Based on the input received, the proposal circulated for public comment in August 2016 will not be presented for a vote by the OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors at its meeting December 5-6, 2016. Rather, the committee will lead a discussion at the December board meeting to describe the status of liver distribution as well as other committee projects intended to create greater equity in liver transplant policy.

“The OPTN/UNOS Board and the OPTN/UNOS Liver and Intestinal Organ Transplantation Committee are committed to developing a policy proposal, after considering feedback from all interested stakeholders, that improves equitable access to liver transplantation throughout the country,” said Stuart Sweet, M.D., OPTN/UNOS President. “It is equally vital to continue our community’s ongoing efforts to address the fundamental goals of increasing the number of organs available for transplantation and ensuring that available organs are used in the best manner possible.”

Learn more

Fallen Soldier Donor Memorial Unveiling

Fallen Soldier Donor Memorial Garden

RICHMOND, Va.–Corporal Benjamin S. Kopp, a member of the 75th Army Ranger Regiment, saved six of his comrades when his unit came under small arms attack by insurgents in Afghanistan.

Although mortally wounded, he saved four more lives back in the United States through his selfless gift of organ donation.

To honor Corporal Kopp and all other brave soldiers who became organ, tissue and eye donors, a Fallen Soldier Donor Memorial is being dedicated in the National Donor Memorial at the United Network for Organ Sharing. It honors members of our military, both present and past, who have made organ and tissue donation their last courageous act of service so that others may live long and healthy lives in a free and safe world.

The memorial has been nearly four years in the making. It was the idea of Gary Foxen, a lung recipient. Foxen met Corporal Kopp’s mother, Jill Stephenson, in 2011, when Kopp was honored as part of the annual Tournament of Roses Donate Life Float, an annual celebration of the gift of life also conceived by Foxen. The memorial is a gift from the OneLegacy Foundation, with additional support from Gary and Lois Foxen and a number of additional individual and corporate contributors.

Ann Walsh, the memorial’s sculptor, said she wanted it to be “abstract and ethereal,” so she decided to make the statue hollow and see-through. “The lines echo the natural growth in the garden,” she added.

About the event

The Fallen Soldier Donor Memorial statue will be unveiled in a ceremony on November 10 at 9 a.m. ET at the United Network for Organ Sharing in Richmond, Va., as will a companion plaque that will hang at Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany.

Due to space constraints the ceremony is by invitation only. The public may watch the ceremony live on UNOS’ Facebook page.

Speakers: Corporal Benjamin S. Kopp’s mother, Jill Stephenson; Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe; UNOS CEO Brian Shepard; OneLegacy Foundation CEO Thomas Mone; Dr. Guenter Kirste from Landstuhl; and Lois Foxen.

 

About UNOS

United Network for Organ Sharing a private, nonprofit organization, unites and supports the organ donation and transplantation community nationwide through organ placement, research, technology, policy development and education. UNOS serves as the nation’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under federal contract. As the OPTN, it matches lifesaving organs with people awaiting transplants nationwide.

About OneLegacy

As the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world, OneLegacy serves more than 200 hospitals, 11 transplant centers, and a diverse population of nearly 20 million people throughout seven counties in Southern California.

‘Josh’s List’ Goes Viral

Videos on Facebook and YouTube go viral; it’s what they do. Remember the hilarious skateboarding bulldog a few years ago? To date, 22 million views. Pure joy. Or the cavorting baby goats? Nearly seven million views.

Videos with a message, not so much, unless, perhaps, the PSA is edgy or grisly. What comes first to mind is the blood-soaked “OMG L@@K OUT!” That one, which you’d think was directed by Quentin Tarantino, takes an unflinching look at the bloody results of texting and driving. After its release, five million views.

Now, there’s “Josh’s List”—neither funny nor grisly, but appealing and heart-warming—and within only 15 days, more than 10.3 million views across two Facebook versions, and more 181,000 shares.

Those are extraordinary numbers, especially when one considers that the PSA, released by UNOS, is its first national PSA in more than 20 years … and some of the talent and production were donated by people and agencies that simply believe in UNOS’ cause.

The unique take in “Josh’s List” is appealing, heartwarming―and persuasive. The storyline, inspired by true events, was conceived by Australian writer, director and cinematographer Damien Toogood. He pitched the idea to UNOS awhile back, but UNOS had no funds for the project, so the idea was put on hold until last year.

The storyline of the PSA involves the heart recipient of organ donor Josh. In gratitude and to honor his donor, the recipient decides to fulfill Josh’s “bucket list,” which includes, among other things, getting a Mohawk, going hiking and taking a road trip. In a series of vignettes, the viewer watches as the recipient completes the list.

At the PSA’s end, we see the recipient stooping over, painting a white picket fence. With that, he’s fulfilling Josh’s final bucket-list item― “do more for Mom.” And, in the final scene, Josh’s mom emerges from her house, lovingly greets the recipient, and gently puts her head on his chest, listening to her son’s heart beat inside the recipient’s body.

“UNOS is thrilled with the viral results of our PSA campaign,” director of communications Mike Pressendo said. “The goal of ‘Josh’s List’ is to build awareness of and trust in the nation’s transplant system and to inspire people to support organ donation.

“We owe much of the success of the campaign to the generous contributions of time, talent and resources from across the globe, including filmmaker and writer Damien Toogood, the band Metric and the team at Publicis New York,” Pressendo added.

As Toogood posted on Facebook, “The saying in advertising is, ‘Well, it’s not like we are saving lives.’ I’m hoping that this spot is the exception.”

At this point, all indications are that it is. Watch it now.

Hospitals chosen for initial phase of COIIN pilot

Nineteen transplant hospitals  have been selected to participate in the initial pilot phase of COIIN (the Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network), a three-year project intended to increase kidney utilization and study new methods of quality monitoring.

Phase I Pilot COIIN Participating Hospitals

  • Augusta University Medical Center, Augusta, Ga.
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
  • Mayo Clinic (Phoenix), Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Methodist Dallas Medical Center, Dallas, Texas
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill.
  • NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, N.Y.
  • Ochsner Foundation Hospital, New Orleans, La.
  • Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio
  • Oregon Health and Science University Hospital, Portland, Ore.
  • Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Ill.
  • Scripps Green Hospital, La Jolla. Calif.
  • Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, Ill.
  • University of Colorado Hospital/Health Science Center, Aurora, Colo.
  • University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • University of Utah Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, Va.
  • University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, Wash.
  • Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Wash.

“The hospitals participating in the pilot program have had success using kidneys that are not accepted as often by other transplant programs across the country, “ said David Klassen, M.D., chair of the COIIN Advisory Council and UNOS’ Chief Medical Officer. “The practices they have found to be effective can be shared with others to increase the number of transplants nationwide.”

Another key aim of the COIIN project is testing potential improvements to the program performance review process. During the study, participants will be exempt from the traditional review of patient and kidney graft survival performed by the OPTN Membership and Professional Standards Committee (MPSC). They will participate in an alternative, collaborative quality improvement framework to drive improvements in organ offer and acceptance, waitlist management, and care coordination.

Each pilot hospital will create and test improvement aims during successive rapid improvement cycles and can share lessons learned with other study participants on an interactive, virtual learning site. Hospitals can also monitor their improvement in key measures including outcomes, processes, relationships, and structures.

Training and coaching for pilot participants will begin in October 2016, and the data collection and collaborative learning will begin in January 2017.

Beginning in summer 2017, hospitals may apply for the second pilot phase of COIIN that will begin in October 2017. Selections for the second pilot phase will be made from a combined pool of new applicants and applicants not selected for the first pilot phase. New applications will not be required for those hospitals who have already submitted materials, although updated information may be necessary.

For more information about COIIN, contact Kristen Sisaithong, Performance Improvement Lead, (804) 782-2960 or Kristen.Sisaithong@unos.org.