Students from Durham University have joined a national campaign to recruit ethnic minority students to the stem cell register. The student-led ‘Tackling Inequalities’ campaign has been launched by volunteering group Durham Marrow in response to the worldwide ‘Match4Lara’ appeal on behalf of student Lara Casalotti, who is struggling to find a donor because she is mixed race.
Currently only 1 in 5 transplant patients from an ethnic minority or mixed race background will find a ‘perfect match’.
The week long recruitment campaign will see the student volunteering groups, known as ‘Marrow’ groups, recruit young donors from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds to the Anthony Nolan register. The groups will set up ‘spit kit’ clinics in their respective universities, focusing on locations and societies with access to diverse ethnic groups.
The president of Durham University Marrow has told the Bubble that the Match4Lara appeal has had a profound affect on Durham students, and wants to help in any way to grow and diversify the register. They would encourage all students to come to Durham Marrow events to register, but in particular is appealing to students from ethnic minority backgrounds to come down and spit into a tube to see whether they are a match. ‘We’ve been working in partnership with other student bodies to help us in this task and are looking forward to recruiting as many people as we can for Lara and other people in her situation.’
Lara Casalotti is a 24-year old student from Hampstead, who was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, an aggressive blood cancer. In December, Lara’s family was told her best chance of survival is a stem cell transplant to save her life.
Her campaign has received support from Prime Minister David Cameron and celebrities including JK Rowling, Stephen Fry and Gareth Bale. This push has resulted in over 10,000 people joining the register so far.
As Lara is half Chinese-Thai and half-Italian it makes it much harder for her to find a perfect match. Currently only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match. This drops dramatically to around 20% if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background due to the lack of donors from these backgrounds.
Durham Marrow is a student volunteering group which works with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan to help recruit more healthy young donors onto their bone marrow register. Anthony Nolan saves the lives of people with blood cancerby matching them to people willing to donate their bone marrow, or blood stem cells, for a lifesaving transplants.
Charlotte Connolly, Regional Recruitment Manager at Anthony Nolan, said, ‘It’s great to see students rallying to support Lara by celebrating the diversity in our universities and using this to help save lives. 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.
‘To join the register, you must be aged between 16 to 30. To sign up, all you have to do is fill out a simple form and spit in a tube. If you are a match, donating your stem cells is usually just like giving blood.’
Students at Durham University are hosting a ‘spit clinic’ on the 10th of February 3pm from at St Aidan’s college. If you’re not able to attend on the day, you can find out more about Durham University Marrow at: https://www.facebook.com/DurhamMarrow/?fref=ts. However, if you are 16–30 and in good health you can register directly online at www.anthonynolan.org