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’, which launched on Monday 28th January, is being spearheaded by ‘Marrow’, blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s student volunteer network, which operates in seven universities across the capital.
Currently, over 109,000 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 ‘Londonors’ 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. It’s more difficult for patients from BAME backgrounds to find a donor with a matching tissue type. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, and this drops dramatically to around 20%, if you're from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background. Students across London want to change this.
Stem cell donors recruited by Marrow, account for over a quarter of all people who go on to donate, meaning the student volunteers are a vital part of the work of Anthony Nolan. This academic year, Marrow is also celebrating 20 years of students saving lives and the 130,000 potential lifesavers they have recruited to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register since 1998.
Doug Mbang, 26, from Woolwich, joined the register seven years ago and is one of the many people who’ve signed up through Marrow.
Doug said: ‘At a Marrow event, they told me that there aren’t as many donors on the register from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. That got me to sign up immediately.
‘Cancer is something that can affect anybody at any point in their life. If a member of my family or one of my friends got blood cancer, I’d want them to have the best chance of surviving. We need more people from a range of backgrounds on the register to save more lives.
‘It feels absolutely amazing to know that doing this could change someone’s life. When you think about saving a life, it’s not just their life that’s important – it’s their friends and family too, everyone who’s part of that person’s life.’
Jack Maddicks, 22, is a student at UCL. He was recruited by UCL Marrow, his university’s group when he saw an event taking place in the student union.
He was called up to donate last summer and said ‘There were lots of factors that influenced me to sign up. It’s fair to say that a reasonable chunk of it was the moral bragging rights that being on the register would give me.
‘I was in a seminar and I had a missed call, I then received an email from Anthony Nolan to say I was a potential match for someone. I wanted to tell everyone in the room straight away, but realised I was not really supposed to be reading emails in a seminar!’
‘I was so surprised, it’s one of those things like winning the lottery or becoming prime minister that I’m pretty sure does happen to real people, but I never expected it to happen to me.’
Over 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood. The other 10% donate through bone marrow, where they give cells from the bone marrow in their pelvis, under general anaesthetic. Jack was one of the 10% to donate via bone marrow.
Speaking about his donation, Jack said: ‘For something that could turn someone’s life around, it was remarkably simple. I would do it again in the blink of an eye.’
Aisling Cohn, Youth Programmes Senior Manager at Anthony Nolan said: ‘Our London Marrow volunteers really are heroes, helping Anthony Nolan give hope to patients with blood cancer by signing up thousands of potential ‘Londonors’.
‘It is also so important to address the need for more people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds on the stem cell register, so that we are able to find a match for every person in need of a transplant, regardless of their ethnicity. London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and therefore provides the perfect opportunity to register a large number of potential donors, from a mix of backgrounds, heritages and communities.
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