on the need for more bone marrow donors: response to a reader
I was recently asked by one of my readers to call attention to the need for more people to register for bone marrow donation–a request inspired by the illness of one of his classmates at Yale School of Medicine, Natasha Collins, who is battling recurrent leukemia but is unable to find a matched bone marrow donor for a life-saving bone marrow transplant (BMT) due to her mixed ethnic background and despite a recent online marrow drive. There will be, however, a second online bone marrow drive for Natasha at www.marrow.org (click here for more information).
Every year, more than 10,000 men, women and children get life-threatening diseases that can only be cured with a BMT. Some of these people find a matched bone marrow donor in their family, but 70 percent do not. These patients search the National Marrow Donor Program Registry for a genetically matched donor and most likely match to a donor of their same race and ethnicity. However, over half of these patients–corresponding to roughly 35% of patients requiring a BMT– are ultimately unable to find a matched bone marrow donor. Many of these patients are of minority or mixed racial/ethnic backgrounds–patient subgroups that are grossly underrepresented in (comprising just 24% and 3%, respectively, of) the 7 million bone marrow donors registered with NMDP (check out NMDP facts and figures, 2009). Thus on the basis of shear numbers of donors available, patients of minority or mixed ethnic background stand much slimmer odds of finding a matched bone marrow donor. And as a result, efforts are currently being made to increase the number of minority and mixed ethnicity bone marrow donors, for example through the NMDP and the MAVIN Foundation.
But this is about everyone. Everyone who needs a BMT should be able to get one. The fact that 35% of these patients cannot find a bone marrow donor is unfortunate and unacceptable. My goal in writing this post is to raise awareness through which more people will hopefully get registered as potential bone marrow donors and those who need a BMT can get one.
I sincerely hope that Natasha and every other patient else who needs a BMT are all able to find a matched donor.
Time to do something about it.