'Black donors save lives,' stem cell campaign says of need for more matches
Published Tuesday, February 16, 2021 10:14AM PST
VANCOUVER -- A campaign looking for more donors suggests Black patients in need of a stem cell transplant are less than half as likely to find a match compared to white patients.
The Stem Cell Club, a Canadian donor recruitment organization, is seeking donors to help change that statistic.
Blood stem cells are immature cells that can develop into any cells that are present in the blood stream, allowing the body to make cells needed for a functioning immune system, Canadian Blood Services says.
Transplants are required when patients' bone marrow has failed, or if they've undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment, as a way to boost their immune system.
They can also be used to treat inherited immune and metabolic disorders, and aplastic anemia, CBS says.
According to the Stem Cell Club, most patients do not have an appropriate match within their family.
In a post on its website, the group says fewer than three per cent of those in the Canadian stem cell donor registry identify as Black.
When it comes to transplants, it matters.
"Genetic markers play a large role in determining stem cell compatibility," the post says.
"This means that a lot of Black patients waiting for a stem cell donation do not find a match."
According to the group, the problem is not just in Canada but world-wide.
The group goes on to say that patients it describes as white and of European descent have a 75 per cent chance of finding an unrelated donor.
But Black patients of any ethnic background have just a 16 to 19 per cent likelihood.
According to the group, there is a need for Black would-be donors between the ages of 17 and 35.
Those who wish to sign up need to create a Canadian Blood Services account.
They will then be mailed a swab so they can submit a sample, and will be contacted if they're a match to a patient.
Generally, the collection process is similar to giving a blood donation, but in some cases, bone marrow extraction is required.
Canadian Blood Services is looking for donors who are in good general health, and are free of infections diseases including HIV/AIDS and health issues like cancer or some heart conditions.