Every year, more than 12,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma for which a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure. About 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on the Be The Match Registry (also called the National Marrow Donor Program [NMDP] Registry) to find an unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood unit. If you are of Caucasian descent the likelihood of finding a marrow match is 80-90%. If you are of minority descent your likelihood of finding a match is far lower: 73 percent for Asian-Americans; 72 percent for Latinos and 66 percent for African-Americans.
What is a stem cell transplant?
A marrow or blood stem cell transplant is a potentially life-saving therapy for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases. During a transplant, healthy blood-forming “stem cells” from a volunteer donor replace a patient’s unhealthy blood cells. Patients who do not have a matching donor in their family may search the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry for a donor.
The Process: Stem cells from donors can come from three sources: 1. cells collected from a blood draw called a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation, 2. cord blood, and 3. directly from the marrow. Blood samples from adult donors or cord blood units are tested, and the tissue type is added to the NMDP Registry which can then be searched for matches.
Why is there a need for donors?
Because tissue type is inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their same race and ethnicity. There is a special need to recruit more donors who identify themselves as: Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino. Today, with millions of potential donors and tens of thousands of cord blood units on the Registry, the likelihood of finding an unrelated donor has increased dramatically for patients from all racial and ethnic groups. Nevertheless, some patients are unable to find a match because of the rarity of their tissue types.
We cooperate with National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) to register new marrow donors especially from Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities.
What can you do?
- Host a bone marrow registration drive at your school! If your chapter is interested in doing this, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for anything you might need.
- If you can’t host a bone marrow drive, please consider registering in the Be the Match Registry.
- Request a FREE home test kit here: http://www.aadp.org/homekit/
- Or here: http://bethematch.org/Support-the-Cause/Donate-bone-marrow/Join-the-marrow-registry/Join-now/
Potential donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60 years old and meet health guidelines. We now use buccal (check) swabs to collect samples for tissue typing (instead of blood samples). Potential donors also complete a brief health questionnaire and sign a consent form to have their tissue type listed on the Registry.