This week, as part of Student Volunteering Week, over 100 student volunteers in universities across London are attempting to recruit hundreds of young Londoners to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register.
The week-long campaign, ‘Londonors’, is being spearheaded by ‘Marrow’, the name given to blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s student volunteer network, which operates in eight universities across the capital.
Marrow groups have been recruiting potential lifesavers to the Anthony Nolan register since 1998, and have recruited over 100,000 people since then. Marrow recruits account for over a quarter of all donors who donate their stem cells, meaning the student volunteers are a vital part of the work of Anthony Nolan.
Currently, over 105,000 Londoners are registered as potential stem cell donors on the Anthony Nolan register, ready to give a second chance to someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder needing a lifesaving transplant.
The campaign will seek to highlight and celebrate the diversity of London, and there will also be a particular focus on recruiting people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. People from BAME backgrounds are currently underrepresented on the stem cell register, meaning that it’s more difficult for patients from these backgrounds to find a donor with a matching tissue type.
Currently, only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, and this drops dramatically to around 20.5% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you're from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
James Cartledge, 31, joined the register in 2008 when approached by a Marrow volunteer at Kings College London. He said: ‘I was at university and Marrow were holding a big promotion event during Freshers’ Week. I hadn’t heard of Anthony Nolan or stem cell donation before this. I wanted to sign up because it seemed like an amazing opportunity to potentially save someone’s life.’
Cartledge, a doctor based in North London, received a call from Anthony Nolan to say that he was a match for someone in need of a stem cell transplant, and donated his stem cells in June 2017.
He said: ‘It might sound strange, but having donated, you feel a real sense of pride. I felt privileged to have done something so valuable – to have the opportunity to directly help someone in this way.’
Jacob Hawley, 27, was recruited by Marrow while at Middlesex University in 2013, and went on to donate stem cells in October 2017.
Hawley, an up-and-coming London-based comedian, said: ‘I signed up without thinking about it too much, hopeful that I could help someone, but also aware that only a small percentage of those that sign up ever actually get contacted to donate.
‘Donating my stem cells through Anthony Nolan was a very personal procedure for me; I lost my grandfather to cancer and helping someone who is in a similar position to his felt incredible.’
He added: ‘It is a myth that the procedure of donating stem cells is painful, and it is a damaging myth at that. There are so many other ways you can help this incredible charity, and if you are reading this I urge you to consider doing so!’
Charlotte Cunliffe, Marrow Programme Lead at Anthony Nolan said: ‘It is so important to address inequality on the stem cell register so that we are able to find a match for every person in need of a transplant. London is one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world, and provides the perfect opportunity to register a large number of potential donors, from a mix of backgrounds, heritages and communities.
This week, we hope to see hundreds of Londoners sign up to become ‘Londonors’, ready to give a second chance to someone in desperate need’
Anyone aged 16-30 and in relatively good health can join the Anthony Nolan register. To find out more about Anthony Nolan and the Londonors campaign, visit at www.anthonynolan.org/londonors