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Donor drive: "This is important, people are dying"

CRISIS: Black cancer sufferers are in need of stem cell donations

A 24 year-old two-time cancer survivor is urging black people to sign-up as stem cell donors during Black History Month.

Kierran Jarrett, from Bromley, Kent, received a stem cell transplant from a donated umbilical cord to treat his acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in June 2016, after being unable to find a donor match on the stem cell register.

Anthony Nolan scanned its registry and others worldwide, but there was no one with the 10 matching genes that would help ensure that Jarrett's body would accept the donor’s cells.

Jarrett was given a transplant from a donated umbilical cord. With cord blood, donors and recipients don’t need to be an exact match, as the stem cells in cord blood haven’t matured and can develop to suit their recipient. That means it’s easier to find matches.

Jarrett said:

"Being told that my odds of finding a match were lower because I’m black was upsetting, but kind of expected. There’s a massive stigma about bone marrow – people still think it’s a massive needle in the spine, and they’d rather give blood instead – even when donating is often just as simple. So I had to have a transplant from an umbilical cord.


IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Cancer survivor and health campaigner Kierran Jarrett (image credit: Star Now)

"For black people, helping out in the community is so important, but the truth is that the community is dying because people are not signing-up to be stem cell donors.

"There’s a lack of knowledge about stem cell donation. This is important, people are dying. Black History Month is a great opportunity to spread the word."

Due to inequality on the stem cell register, patients from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have only a 20.5% chance of finding the best possible donor match, compared to 69% for northern Europeans.

However, the annual review from Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant, From Strength to Strength, revealed that in 2016, people from BAME backgrounds made up 23% (42,326) of new registered adults on the UK donor register, which rose by 185,000 in 2016 to almost 1.3 million. But despite last year’s increase, BAME donors still make-up just 15% of the register.

SIGN-UP

Latitia Simms, from Birmingham, joined the Anthony Nolan register at university after a friend of hers was diagnosed with leukaemia. Sadly, her friend was unable to find a suitable match and died when she was just 21 years old.

Nine years later, Simms, 31, received an email to say that she was a potential match for someone in need of a stem cell transplant.

Simms donated her stem cells at the London Clinic on 26 July 2017 and is now passionate about encouraging other people from African and Caribbean backgrounds to sign-up as potential stem cell donors.

She said:

"I think the key to encouraging people from African Caribbean backgrounds to sign up is all about knowledge – sometimes we don't find out about these things until it directly affects us or our loved ones.

"I would say to someone who was thinking of joining the Anthony Nolan register that if you’re curious, don’t hesitate – research and sign-up!"

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said:

"Black History Month provides an opportunity to thank all of the black donors who have signed up to potentially give someone an invaluable second chance at life, and to raise awareness of the need for more people from African and Caribbean backgrounds to sign up as potential stem cell donors.

"While it is encouraging that we’ve seen an increase in the number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds signing up as potential stem cell donors in recent years, it still remains the case that patients like Kierran face a disparity in their relative chances of finding a lifesaving donor."

Anyone aged between 16-30 and in generally good health can join the Anthony Nolan register. To find out more about Anthony Nolan, or to join the stem cell register, click here.

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