Swab a cheek to save a life, this World Marrow Donor Day | Leukaemia Foundation

Swab a cheek to save a life, this World Marrow Donor Day

Friday September 20 2019

Every year, more than 600 Australians living with blood cancer will need an allogeneic stem cell transplant to survive.

To access that life-saving treatment, some patients will find a stem cell donor within their own family. However, 70 per cent rely on a complete stranger to donate their cells through the Australian Donor Registry.

Currently, the Australian Donor Registry is unable to meet the needs of Australian patients requiring a stem cell transplant with less than 5 per cent of registered Australian donors considered ideal. This means most Australian patients needing a transplant have to look for an overseas donor to be able to receive their vital treatment.

In some cases, patients who have indigenous heritage or are from communities not well represented in international registries, a suitable donor cannot be found.

On the eve of World Marrow Donor Day, the Leukaemia Foundation has joined forces with the Australian Donor Registry to raise awareness of the importance of stem cell donors and to encourage Aussies to help others by ‘swabbing a cheek to save a life’.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch urged all Australians to step up and support the new initiative to help save lives.

“For over 40 years our priority has been to ensure access to treatments, information and supportive care for all Australians affected by blood cancer. We know that if there are more Australian stem cell donors, more people will have the chance to survive their blood cancer,” Mr Petch said.

The Australian Donor Registry has launched a new campaign, Strength to Give, to encourage 5000 young Australian men aged between 18-30 from a diverse group of ethnic backgrounds to register to be a stem cell donor to help meet the growing demand.

Australian Donor Registry CEO Lisa Smith said the organisation was focused on supporting fellow Australians in their time of need and to secure 5000 new Australian stem cell donors would be an incredible start.

“While we welcome all new donors, the reality is younger male donors result in better outcomes for patients and increase their chances of finding the best possible match. Young men make particularly important donors as they often weigh more and therefore literally have more to give,” Ms Smith said.

To register, simply visit https://lf.strengthtogive.org.au/ and register your details and a swab test will be sent to you. Once this is returned, you will be placed on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s recently released State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report confirmed that every day 41 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer including leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood disorders. Many of these patients will require a blood stem cell transplant from a stranger to be able to conquer their blood cancer.

To learn more about blood cancer or if you would like to receive a copy of the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report or the Leukaemia Foundation’s response titled ‘My Life Counts’, go to http://www.leukaemia.org.au/mylifecounts. For more information on stem cell transplants, please visit https://www.leukaemia.org.au/disease-information/transplants/ or visit the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Information YouTube Channel.

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What is a Blood Stem Cell Transplant?

A blood stem cell transplant is also known as a bone marrow transplant. This treatment may be recommended for people with blood cancers such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma.

A stem cell transplant replaces blood-forming cells in your bone marrow (including cancer cells) that have been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy with healthy stem cells. These cells then develop into new bone marrow and produce healthy blood cells.

A blood stem cell transplant can use a patient’s own stem cells (autologous transplantation) or stem cells from a donor (allogeneic transplantation). This can be a complex decision that will depend on several factors, such as your age, the type of cancer you have, the health of your existing bone marrow and your overall health, and any previous chemotherapy treatments.

Who is the Australian Donor Registry?

The Australian Donor Registry is an independent charity, part-funded by the Australian Government to provide hospitals with the ability to search for matching stem cells from unrelated volunteer donors from Australia and around the world.

The chances of finding a match for Australians in need depends on the characteristics of the donors. To find the best possible match, patients need donors from an ethnic background similar to their own. Some Australians will find a matching donor in countries like the UK, US or Europe; for others, a matching donor will only be found in Australia. For more information, please visit https://www.abmdr.org.au/

How do I donate my stem cells?
Marrow donation information graphic

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