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Simon celebrates 40 years since his bone marrow transplant - the world's first from an unrelated donor

This month, Simon Bostic celebrates 40 years since he became the first ever recipient of a successful bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.

Londoner Simon was born with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), an extremely rare and life-threatening hereditary condition.

Doctors told Simon’s parents, Elisabeth and Roger, that without a bone marrow transplant their son would not survive. However, none of Simon’s relatives was a suitable donor. Desperate, Elisabeth enlisted the media’s help to find a donor.

Within two months, the campaign had attracted thousands of people to get tested to see if they were a match for Simon. Incredibly, one of those people was found to be a suitable donor and Simon’s transplant went ahead.

The headlines about Simon’s transplant reached British-born Shirley Nolan on the other side of the world. Shirley’s young son Anthony was desperately ill with a very similar condition to Simon. She returned from Australia to the UK in the hope that Simon’s doctors could also save Anthony.

Sadly Anthony died aged seven in 1979 but Shirley Nolan’s campaigning led to the creation of the world’s first bone marrow (or stem cell) register.

Anthony Nolan now has over 470,000 potential donors on its bone marrow register. It matches them with blood cancer patients in desperate need of bone marrow transplants.

Simon, 41, says, ‘Such a lot has changed in the 40 years since I had my transplant and advances in medical science have been extraordinary.

‘However, some things have not changed. Still thousands of people each year urgently need stem cell transplantation and donors are needed for these. This is why the valuable and vital work that Anthony Nolan does in terms of finding matches is an integral part of the continuing effort to save lives of those who need transplants.’

Anthony Nolan’s Chief Executive Henny Braund says, ‘This is an amazing milestone for Simon. Anthony Nolan’s history as a charity began with him when the success of his transplant inspired Shirley Nolan to start our register of donors.

‘This story doesn’t end here. As we approach our fortieth anniversary next year, our mission is still to find a suitable donor for every person who needs a bone marrow transplant.’

Archived Press release