About 800 people in Canada are waiting bone marrow transplants. However to find sufficient suitable matches from among suitable donors and offer effective treatment through stem cell transplantation, some 2 million people must be part of a national registry from which the matches can be chosen. Only 250,000 have stepped forward as donors.
A stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces unhealthy blood forming cells with healthy ones. The treatment of blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms) requires blood and marrow stem cell transplantation.
Although not always a guarantee of a cure, stem cell transplantation procedures continue to be improved, making transplantation a treatment option for an increasing number of patients. An active member of the community, Jüri Nurmberg is a participant in a revolutionary clinical trial of a possible drug that will help in his treatment. Although Jüri now undergoes blood transfusions and radiation therapy, it’ll still be stem cell transplantation, from a dependable match that may offer Jüri effective treatment.
Right now, somewhere in the world, someone desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. Yet the requirements for finding a bone marrow match are so precise, that more than 70% of those in need will not find the vital life-saving match from within their family.
That’s where Estonians can step forward, in fact anyone can offer to be a donor, and be the one match for which someone is waiting. Lea Vares-Greenwood, an Estonian herself, is Patient Services Manager of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Canada, an organization that coordinates information and resources at the grassroots level for people across the country living with blood cancers. She says that the shortage of donors is acute. (Information about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada is available at www.LLS.org/canada.)
Ms. Vares-Greenwood indicates that Estonians, as donors, could boost tremendously the effectiveness of the national registry. Estonians originate from eastern Europe, an area of the world with “blended cultures” (mixed genetic populations), from which it’s difficult to find necessary matches for stem cells transplants from one person to another. There is a crucial shortage of people with this specific background in the registry currently.
She knows the desperation and specific problems of blood cancer victims: “The medical system is great at providing medicines, but not at providing the support that’s needed – such as how to communicate with family, friends and other survivors, transportation issues, addressing childcare issues and so on.”
The Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry is a data base of Canadians ready to donate bone marrow to anyone in need around the world. For people with leukemia, immune system or metabolic disorders, a bone marrow transplant could mean the difference between life and death.
People have their own personal reasons for joining the registry. But all donors know this: each potential donor can offer a match for someone in desperate need. In fact many donors have called their experience one of the most meaningful and rewarding of their lives.
For more information and to join the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry visit www.blood.ca/registry or call 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236 6283).
Estonians can help in the fight against blood cancers