Alameda, CA – Mahesh, a 68-year-old man, is a loving husband and father of two. In May 2019, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (a type of blood cancer), the day after celebrating his son’s marriage. A stem cell transplant is Mahesh’s only chance of beating this disease. Before a transplant takes place, a matching stem cell donor must be found.
Mahesh has spent four months in the hospital and his need for a match is urgent. Initially, five matches were found on the registry in India. But, these donors declined to move forward or were ineligible to donate their stem cells. No donor has been found on the Be The Match® national registry.
Matching is based on your human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. Your HLA is part of what makes you ‘you’ – your individual genetic characteristics. So, HLA matches are closely based upon a patient’s ethnicity.
Mahesh is South Asian/Indian. So, his perfect stem cell match will most likely be someone who is Indian or someone with Indian ancestry. You have a 30 percent chance of being a match with a sibling. But, Mahesh’s siblings are not the best match for him.
Mahesh family is from Central/Eastern India. His parents hail from Orissa. Today South Asians make up one percent of the bone marrow registry.
“My father’s health is rapidly declining and he needs a stem cell match right away,” says Amrut, Mahesh’s son. “If you are South Asian/Indian then signing up might save our Dad’s life or, if you are not a match for him, you might also save the life of another South Asian looking for a match. We need your help!”
More about Mahesh
Mahesh is a father, a husband, and a friend. He is also a leukemia patient. His heritage, Indian American, is preventing him from finding a matching donor because there aren’t enough Indians registered as potential donors.
“I am completely dependent upon the registry to find a match, as my leukemia is aggressive,” Mahesh says. “There are zero matches for me. Being of Indian-American heritage, the population is severely under-represented as donors. If you have just five minutes, I ask you to register.”
Join the registry by texting MAHESH to 61474
What’s the Solution?
People of color are more likely to die of leukemia and other blood cancers because there is a shortage of diverse HLA types on the Be The Match® national registry. It is vital to build a more diverse registry so everyone has an equal opportunity to survive blood cancers.
Encouraging more people of ethnically diverse backgrounds and those of mixed heritage to be committed and join the Registry, potentially saving a life. Each of us can “Be The One to Save a Life!”
The Asian American Donor Program (AADP, www.aadp.org) is a 30-year-old community based nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization, based in Alameda, CA, that works to educate community members about marrow donation and the importance of joining the Be The Match® national registry. It is the oldest nonprofit of its kind in the country. AADP staff is dedicated to increasing the availability of potential stem cell donors for patients with life threatening diseases curable by a blood stem cell or marrow transplant. AADP is an official recruitment center for Be The Match®.
“For thousands of severely ill blood cancer patients, there is a cure,” says Carol Gillespie, AADP executive director. “You could be the cure. Those whose marrow/stem cells are not a match for a patient in need now may be a match for someone else down the road, anywhere in the world. I encourage all individuals to commit to registering. It is simple to register – just a swab of the inside of your cheek.”
When a marrow match is not readily available, patients have to wait longer than is ideal to find a match. Once a match has been found, their disease may have progressed to the point that they are no longer eligible for a transplant.
Importance of Diversifying the Registry
In 2019, an estimated combined total of 176,200 people in the US were expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. New cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma were expected to account for 10 percent of the estimated 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnosed in the US in 2019. (From: https://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview/facts-and-statistics
The Be The Match® registry recruits hundreds of thousands of donors each year through an extensive network of about 100 local and regional Community Engagement Representatives and organizations. You only need to join the Be The Match® registry once.
Marrow/stem cell matches are very different than blood type matches. Just as we inherit our eyes, hair, and skin color, we inherit our marrow and stem cell tissue type.
How You Can Commit to Help
- Register on line: https://join.bethematch.org/Mahesh
Or, text MAHESH to 61474
- You must be 18 to 44 years old and meet general health requirements.
- Complete the online consent form and a swab kit will be mailed to you.
- Be committed. Be ready to donate to any patient in need.
- Other ways to help – call AADP at 1-800-593-6667 or visit our website http://www.aadp.org
Please take a few minutes of your time to learn more about how you can help save a life and register as a marrow donor.