Useful information on Anthony Nolan, the stem cell donor register and blood cancer
What we do
Anthony Nolan is a pioneering charity that saves the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders. Every day, we use our register to match remarkable individuals willing to donate their bone marrow or blood stem cells to people who desperately need lifesaving transplants.
- Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.
- We need more men aged 16–30 to sign up as they are underrepresented on the register. Young men currently make up only 18% of our register, but they provide an astonishing 55% of all donations.
- Young people are also most likely to be chosen to donate as they provide better outcomes for patients, and are less likely to have long-term health problems which might delay or prevent donation.
- We urgently need more people from minority ethnic backgrounds to sign up as stem cell donors. Patients who are White Caucasian have a 72% chance of finding the best match from an unrelated donor. This drops to a 37% chance for patients from minority ethnic backgrounds.
- Every 14 minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer or a related disorder.
- Over 2,000 people in the UK are in need of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant every year.
- 75% of UK patients won’t find a matching donor in their families. So they turn to us to find them an unrelated donor.
- We give a chance of life to three people every day.
- Every day, at least 5 people start their search for a matching unrelated stem cell donor.
- Last year we helped around 1300 people receive a stem cell transplant; getting a second chance of life.
- Last year we searched for donors for 300+ children who couldn't find a match within their family.
- Currently, only 72% of patients from White, Caucasian, backgrounds can find the best possible match from a stranger. This drops, significantly, to 37% for patients from a minority ethnic background. By building and diversifying our register we will be able provide the best match to even more people with blood cancer.
- Only 2% of people in the UK are registered as stem cell donors. This compares to 13% in Cyprus, 12% in Israel and 9% in Germany.
- 90% of donations take place via peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection. This is a procedure similar to giving blood. It takes around 5 hours, and is a simple outpatients procedure.
- Once you're on the register, you have a 1 in 800 chance of being asked to donate. But your chance of being chosen to donate depends on your age and sex. A young man aged 16–30 has a 1 in 200 chance of being chosen to donate.
- It costs about £40 to recruit each potential donor to the stem cell register.
- To join our register, you must be aged between 16 and 30, weigh more than 7st 12lbs (50kgs) and be in general good health.
- Anthony Nolan's recent research confirms that the use of donors under 30 is associated with a trend towards better survival rates.
- More than 34,000 mums have donated their cord blood to Anthony Nolan.
- Over 90 cords from Anthony Nolan's bank have been used so far in potentially lifesaving transplants, either for patients in the UK or overseas.
About blood cancer
- There are three main types of blood cancer – leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
- Blood cancers are life-threatening partly because they stop a person’s immune system working properly.
- When someone’s immune system is badly damaged, they can die from an infection their body could normally fight off.
- On average, 104 people a day are diagnosed with a blood cancer.
- That’s one person every 14 minutes.
Treating blood cancer
- All blood cells originate in bone marrow from the same type of cell, called a blood stem cell.
- A blood stem cell (or bone marrow) transplant can replace a damaged immune system in a person with blood cancer – but only if the donor’s tissue type matches.
- For many people with blood cancer, a transplant is their last chance of life.
- A transplant works by taking blood stem cells from a healthy donor and giving them to someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder.
- The donor and the recipient must have the same tissue type. As there are millions of different combinations, finding a suitable match is very complicated.
About Anthony Nolan
- Anthony Nolan was born in 1971 with a rare blood disorder called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. The only cure was a bone marrow transplant. None of Anthony’s family was a match and back then there was no system to find an unrelated donor.
- In 1974, Anthony Nolan’s mother, Shirley, set up the world’s first bone marrow register to match donors with people who desperately need a transplant. Since then, we’ve made more than 21,000 transplants happen.
- Sadly, our register couldn’t help Anthony Nolan, who died aged eight in 1979.
- We carry out world-class research into stem cell matching and transplants to improve outcomes for all patients.
- In 2008, we set up our state-of-the-art Cell Therapy Centre for banking umbilical cord blood and conducting groundbreaking research.
- We are a UK charity with international reach. We work with hospitals and donor registries around the world to find matching donors for patients, wherever they are.
- We urgently need more people to join our register so we can provide more matches and save more lives.
- As a charity, we need more funds to increase our lifesaving work. Expanding our donor register, cord blood bank and pioneering research all cost money.
- The more funds we have, the more lives we can save.
You can also find more related information on our annual reviews.