Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, has an extra reason to celebrate World Blood Cancer Day today (28 May). It's just signed up its 600,000th potential donor, thanks to the selflessness of the British public.
Every year, approximately 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a stranger. This year, 24-year-old Lara Casalotti was one of them. London-based Lara was diagnosed with leukaemia in January this year, and due to her mixed Thai-Italian heritage, doctors warned her that the odds of finding a donor were like finding a needle in a haystack.
Lara’s appeal led to an unprecedented spike in register sign-ups and has helped the charity reach this remarkable milestone so quickly. An estimated 20,000 people joined the Anthony Nolan stem cell register in less than a month as a result of the #Match4Lara appeal. Happily, a selfless donor was found whose tissue type matched Lara’s and her transplant went ahead in March.
Lara, who is now recovering well at home, said: ‘I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has registered recently and who will potentially go on to be lifesavers. I feel so very fortunate to have found a matching stem cell donor but there are still many people with blood cancer who struggle to find their match. That’s why it is so important for more people, from all ethnic backgrounds, and especially men, to sign up so that we can have an even larger, more diverse register. That way everyone can have an equal chance at finding their life saving match.’
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘Everyone who joins the Anthony Nolan register is a potential lifesaver, and it’s a fantastic milestone to have reached 600,000 donors. For people with blood cancer, that’s 600,000 chances of a cure. But in order to achieve our goal of finding a match for everyone who needs a transplant, we need to keep growing and diversifying the register. Joining the register is very simple and donating is a straightforward process. This World Blood Cancer Day, we are urging people to visit www.anthonynolan.org and sign up to be a stem cell donor. You can help give people with blood cancer a second chance at life.’
On average, people in need of a transplant have a 60% chance of finding the best possible match, but this falls to 20% for people from an ethnic minority background. Young men are particularly in demand, as they provide more than half of all donations but make up just 15% of the register.
Anyone aged 16-30 and in good health can register as a potential donor by signing up on the Anthony Nolan website and providing a saliva sample. Once added to the register, people stay on it until they are 60. If they are a match for someone in need of a transplant, 90% of the time the process involves donating stem cells from the bloodstream.