Why we do it

Why we do it

The reason we fight blood cancer is simple. We do it to save lives.

Given the lack of diversity on the bone marrow donor registry, we focus on under-represented groups, to improve the odds of all blood cancer patients finding a life-saving donor match.

What is blood cancer?

Blood cancer is a blanket term for cancers affecting blood cells, bone marrow, and the lymphatic system. Blood cancer impairs the body’s ability to fight infections, carry oxygen in the blood stream, and prevent bleeding. The three main groups of blood cancer are leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Who does blood cancer affect?

Blood cancers affect hundreds of thousands of people globally. Blood cancers are the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and are responsible for over 10% of new cancer cases in the US.1

  • Every 14 minutes, someone in the UK is told they have blood cancer. 104 people per day, 38,000 people per year.2
  • The US diagnoses over 170,000 new cases a year. That’s almost one person every three minutes.3.

How is blood cancer treated?

Treatment options for blood cancer include radiation, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplant. Radiation and chemotherapy are designed to destroy cancer cells or halt their growth. Stem cell transplants replace abnormal blood cells with healthy ones. Stem cells are typically taken from a donor’s blood or bone marrow. A successful stem cell transplant can cure certain types of blood cancer. But first, a patient must be matched with a donor.

How are stem cell donors matched with patients?

For a successful transplant, the stem cell donor must first be a very close or exact match for certain proteins or markers in the patient’s blood. This is done through a DNA-based test called human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, also known as tissue typing. A person’s immune system uses HLA markers to know which cells belong in your body. A close HLA match helps ensure that the new blood will be accepted by the patient’s body, allowing them to grow and make new, healthy blood cells.

How are stem cell donors found?

Because HLA markers are hereditary, a patient’s family members are most likely to have similar proteins, so the matching process starts by testing them. However, seven out of ten patients do not find a match within their family.4 When a family member is not a match, patient’s must depend upon donor registries for a volunteer. This is why it is so important to have as large a registry as possible.

You can register to be a donor yourself here if you live in the UK, or here if you live in the US.

Why is diversity important for donor matching?

Because HLA markers are hereditary, race and ethnicity play a large role in matching a donor. Some patients have as much as a 96% chance of finding a match.5 However, because minorities make up a smaller percentage of the population, they have a lower likelihood of finding a matching donor. In fact, less than 20% of black patients find a donor.6 Mixed race patients have an even smaller likelihood.

As such, there is an urgent need for more minority and genetically diverse donors to sign up. If you’re part of a minority or have an uncommon mixed heritage, joining the registry can be a priceless act.

Young men are also vastly underrepresented. Healthy, young men aged between 17-30 make up only a fraction of the register yet are far more likely to be matched as a donor, providing almost half of donations.

Every person can be a lifesaver

The more registered donors, the better. If you’re healthy and 17-55 years old, there is a good chance you could be a lifesaver by simply donating your stem cells. It’s a straightforward and almost painless process, something you’ll be glad you did because, thanks to you, someone gets to have a future.

The first step is to register as a potential donor, so you can be matched. UK residents register here. US residents register here.

The registration process is painless and simple, requiring only a saliva sample, submitted by mail. Please don’t wait, because someone may be waiting on you.

  1. http://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview (accessed February 7, 2017)
  2. https://bloodwise.org.uk/page/facts-and-information-about-blood-cancer (accessed February 7, 2017)
  3. http://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview (accessed February 7, 2017)
  4. https://bethematch.org/for-patients-and-families/finding-a-donor/hla-matching/ (accessed February 12, 2017)
  5. https://bethematch.org/transplant-basics/matching-patients-with-donors/how-does-a-patients-ethnic-background-affect-matching/ (accessed February 12, 2017)
  6. https://www.anthonynolan.org/news/2016/05/19/report-reveals-unfair-survival-odds-bame-blood-cancer-patients (accessed March 30, 2017)

Join the donor register

Click the links below to be taken to your country donor register website.

Please note that you will be leaving our website by clicking the links.

What can I do to help? You can help save a life in 1 of 4 ways - find out more
Donor register
It takes just a few minutes to sign up & help fight blood cancer
Get involved
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Donate funds
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Raise awareness
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