Graham's Corner

No, we haven’t changed our tag line, and it’s not an idea for a new recruitment poster, although it certainly could be. Quite simply, it describes what we refer to as the “optimal stem cell donor.” We’re looking for young healthy males, particularly from a range of ethnic backgrounds, to register with our OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.

Through the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, Canadian Blood Services recruits and matches donors with patients who need stem cell transplants. These transplants can make all the difference for patients with various diseases and disorders, including leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, sickle cell and inherited immune system and metabolic disorders. We search for matches in Canada, and in other international registries, to help patients get the stem cells they need.

We know that optimal stem cell donors — young males between 17 and 35 years old — tend to offer patients a better outcome. This information comes straight from treating physicians who see the benefits. Unfortunately, less than five per cent of donors currently registered come from this group. Aboriginal Canadians, members of certain ethnic communities and people of mixed ethnicity are also underrepresented in the OneMatch program, making it harder for many patients to find a match.

Exceptional individuals like Danny Ho, Habiba Cooper Diallo, Arash Mo and Dr. Prateek Lala are working to change this. Through their impressive efforts and those of the many individuals they’ve inspired to act, they are increasing the number of registrants in Canada’s Chinese, African, Persian and South Asian communities. I encourage you to read their inspiring stories and think about ways you might be able to promote registration in your own community.

Blood collected from the umbilical cords of newborns is another excellent source of stem cells and, in fact, is becoming the treatment of choice for many physicians. Yet Canada is the last G7 country without a national public umbilical cord blood bank. Things are changing, though, as Canadian Blood Services is in the midst of a $12.5-million fundraising campaign to help build Canada’s national cord blood bank.

Whether you decide to register with OneMatch, encourage someone else to register or make a financial donation to the Campaign For All Canadians, there are many ways to contribute, make a difference and help save lives. We owe it to the nearly 1,000 patients in Canada who are waiting to find their match.