European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes (ENCKEP) is a network supported by COST for 4 years from September 2016 to September 2020. The research topic of the network is as follows.
About one per thousand European citizens suffers from end stage renal disease, with kidney transplantation being the most effective form of treatment. However, deceased donor kidney transplantation is severely limited by availability and approximately 40% of living donors are incompatible with their specified recipient, and hence there may be obstacles that rule out these forms of transplantation for many patients.
In an attempt to circumvent this shortage problem, and give an additional alternative of transplant to patients, several European countries have independently developed Kidney Exchange Programmes (KEPs). In these programmes, a patient with a willing but incompatible donor can “swap” his / her donor with that of another patient in a similar position. KEPs vary regarding the solutions provided for the problems in (i) the policy domain (prioritisation, equity, and accessibility), (ii) the clinical domain (clinical practice and evidence), and (iii) the optimisation domain (methods to solve the hard dynamic multi-criteria matching problems which take clinical evidence and health policy into account).
Policies for deceased donors, as coordinated by three existing European transplantation organisations, allow organs to be exchanged between countries. By contrast, KEPs tend to follow isolated national policies and no collaboration (in terms of the joint management of programmes) currently exists. Exchange of best practice is also very scarce. Collaboration poses enormous challenges for new research and investigation, especially if the aim is to truly reflect the characteristics of a transnational European KEP, and to ensure that the outcomes and results are viable and acceptable to all participants.