Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is making it easier and faster to register as a potential stem cell donor — from anywhere in Canada. An overwhelming 1,100 residents from British Columbia signed up during a pilot buccal (cheek) swab project to recruit new potential donors over the past 3 months. That includes an astonishing 341% jump in our target market of young, ethnically diverse Canadians.
Until recently, becoming a new registrant for OneMatch meant taking a blood test. But from now on, registering to help Canadians suffering from such life-threatening illnesses as leukemia, lymphoma, or Sickle-Cell disease is as simple and painless as brushing your teeth. In the seconds it takes to swab the inside of your cheek – just like the forensic investigators on CSI – registrants could be steps closer to saving a life.
Once registered online at OneMatch (see web link below), a buccal swab kit is mailed directly to the registrants’ home with clear instructions and a postage paid return envelope. When it reaches the Canadian Blood Services HLA lab, the DNA is extracted for HLA typing from the specimen, and the registrants’ information is entered into our database of 227,000 Canadians. Basically, each new registrant could be a potential match for a patient anywhere in the world.
“We are thrilled with the response from the Canadian public to our outreach so far,” says Sue Smith, Executive Director, OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. “But we have to keep this momentum growing. The face of Canada is changing dramatically, almost daily, and even though the database is growing, finding a stem cell match is still like finding a needle in the haystack. The more diverse OneMatch is, the better the odds to save lives.”
Today if you are an Aboriginal, Black, Chinese, South Asian, or Filipino patient in need of a stem cell transplant, your chances of finding a donor are not as good as they could be because we simply don’t have enough available donors from these groups – and it is more likely that you will find your donor from your own community. Whereas if you are Caucasian, you have about a 75 per cent chance of finding a donor.
Medical experts know certain diseases are more prevalent in specific ethno-cultural groups. And since blood types are inherited, the best match for these patients is people with the same genetic background but related matches are not common. In fact there is a 70 % chance a patient in need will rely on someone they don’t know to help save their life. Research also has found stem cells and bone marrow from younger donors offers patients the best chance of long-term survival.
Illustration: Canadian Blood Services.
Canadian Blood Services Media Room (02/28/08)
Vancouver Sun (03/04/08)
Ismaili Mail (03/04/08)