Huge numbers of students are expected to register as potential bone marrow donors at a recruitment event this Wednesday, held by Glasgow Marrow and inspired by 24 year old student Lara Casalotti’s recent blood cancer diagnosis.
Lara, from Hampstead, London, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy at London’s University College Hospital, but needs a bone marrow transplant. Her mixed race Chinese-Thai and Italian heritage makes her chances of finding a matching donor extremely slim, and, after discovering that her immediate family were not suitable matches, a global #Match4Lara campaign was launched by her family and friends. This has quickly gained traction worldwide, with multiple UK charities expressing their support.
Marrow is the student-run branch of Anthony Nolan, a leading bone marrow charity that recruits donors to a UK register and raises awareness of the importance of doing so in order to save the lives of those with blood cancers via stem cell transplant. Members of the register can go on to donate to patients worldwide, and there is a growing need for donors from black, Asian or minor ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds; currently around 60% of all patients find a perfect match for transplant, but this figure decreases to 20% for BAME patients.
Since the launch of the #Match4Lara campaign three weeks ago over 12000 new potential donors have signed up to the register, half of which are from BAME backgrounds. This continues the Tackling Inequalities campaign by Marrow groups all over the UK, which Glasgow Marrow has already taken an active part in through events such as one held in partnership with Caledonian University Muslim Student Association in October.
“It’s great to see students rallying to support Lara by celebrating the diversity in our universities and using this to help save lives,” said Charlotte Connolly, Regional Recruitment Manager at Anthony Nolan. “It’s amazing to think that, just by being themselves, these students could be the key for curing blood cancer for so many people like Lara who have a diverse ethnic heritage and who are desperately waiting for a match.”
This academic year alone, Glasgow Marrow have recruited a total of 559 students to the marrow register, including a record-breaking Hero Week held at the university gym in November which saw 205 new sign ups. Marrow groups across the UK are responsible for 1 in 4 new additions to the register, and statistically 1 in every 100 people on the register will go on to donate stem cells.
Lisa Petzal and Yasmin Moore, friends of Lara and co-organisers of Wednesday’s event alongside Glasgow Marrow, said, “As soon as we heard about the appeal to find a match for Lara, and about how underrepresented mixed-race people are on the donor register, we wanted to do whatever we could to help. It is amazing to see how everyone has got behind the campaign and wants to help save the life of a fellow student and the thousands of others waiting for their match.”
The recruitment drive will be held from 10am-8pm on Wednesday in the QMU cloakroom. Signing up takes around ten minutes, consists of filling in a form and giving a saliva sample, and is open to anyone aged 16-30. Anyone unable to attend can register online at www.anthonynolan.org, and those older than this age bracket can register via the British Bone Marrow Registry (www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/bonemarrow) or Delete Blood Cancer (www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk).