Every year, hundreds of Canadians need stem cell transplants to treat potentially life-threatening illnesses including immune dysfunctions, genetic disorders and various forms of cancer.
For the 70 per cent of patients who must look outside their families for a suitable, unrelated match, their best chance for survival is likely to be found from stem cells of someone within their own ethnic group.
This is the case for two Canadian patients of African descent. One is Hector, a 59 year-old man from British Columbia who recently celebrated the first anniversary of his transplant. The other is two-year-old Owen from Hamilton, Ontario. Owen is waiting for a match to treat a genetic condition known as Fanconi Anemia.
Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network has supported donor searches for both individuals through the network’s link to 66 similar registries worldwide.
The number of transplants for Canadian patients of African and others of diverse ethnic backgrounds continues to climb. There are currently 36 patients in Canada who are Black that need a transplant, yet only 1,800 searchable Black Canadians on the OneMatch registry-representing only 0.5 per cent of the total number of searchable registrants.
The registry needs to be more ethnically diverse in order to respond to the needs of patients-like Owen and Hector. One way that OneMatch is working toward increased ethnic diversity is through community-run registration events. Potential donors can help support patients like Owen and Hector by attending a OneMatch registration and cheek swabbing (DNA sample collection) event, held in partnership with the Praise Cathedral Worship Centre.
“It is important that communities come together to help patients in need. Only by working together can we help to increase the number of searchable, potential donors and help save more lives,” said pediatrician Dr. Allison Tyrrell.
Registration with OneMatch is the first step for a potential donor who wishes to help any patient in need.
The registration and cheek swabbing event will be held on Saturday, May 21 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Praise Cathedral Worship Centre, located at 6785 Millcreek Drive, Mississauga.
For more information, visit www.onematch.ca, or www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/onematch.