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Join Our HLA Bone Marrow Registry
To Help Others Like GMA’s Robin Roberts!


June 2012

 

"Good Morning America" Anchor Robin Roberts is facing a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disorder that affects the bone marrow.

The "Good Morning America" anchor will undergo chemotherapy before having a bone marrow transplant later this year. Robin was lucky to find a perfect marrow match in her sister, which greatly increases her chances for a cure.

"Bone marrow donors are scarce, particularly for African-American women," Roberts said. "I am very fortunate to have a sister who is an excellent match.”

More than 10,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with blood-related disorders every year, according to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). The best treatment often is a bone marrow transplant during which a donor's stem cells are directly transfused into the sick patient's bloodstream. The patient's new cells multiply over time to create healthy bone marrow.

A sibling like Robin's is often the best genetic match but 70% of transplant patients will end up using an unrelated donor’s bone marrow. The chance of finding a match on the national registry is only about 66% for African-Americans and other minorities, compared with 93% for Caucasians.

To improve the chances of marrow donor matches for others like Robin who need transplants, The HLA Registry at Community Blood Services, a member of the NMDP’s Be The Match registry, is encouraging community members to sign up as potential donors. Donors of all types are needed but particularly African American donors because of the disparity on the national registry. You can sign up at www.bethematch.org. After you fill out your registration form online using promo code "DC2012," Be The Match will send you a cheek swab kit.

Sponsoring a bone marrow drive with your community organization, business, school, or place of faith also can help add potential lifesaving matches to the registry. To sponsor a drive, call 800-336-3363 for further information and help in setting up your drive.

"What better time to set up your local community drive and raise awareness about the continuous, ongoing need for more African American bone marrow donors than in the month of July, which is African American Bone Marrow Donor Awareness Month?" asked Yessica Heredia, recruitment specialist with The HLA Registry.

Be the Match has 10 million potential donors, but only 7% are African-American. Patients are more likely to find a match with someone who shares their common ancestry or ethnicity.

Currently, the registry is meeting only about a third of the needs for African-American transplants, said Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the NMDP.

To sign up to be a donor, you must be between 18 and 60 years old and be in good health. Click here for more information on how to register or click here to read Robin's announcement earlier this week.


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