A campaign to find a bone marrow donor for a 24 year-old student has become one of the largest ever of its kind and attracted support from the Prime Minister.
Match4Lara is a campaign founded to find a bone marrow donor for Lara Casalotti, a student from North London who was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukaemia just before Christmas and now requires a donor before April in order to save her life.
Lara, who was assisting an Oxford University Professor with research in Thailand over Christmas, is half-Thai and half-Italian and has been unable to find a donor after her only brother was found not to be a match.
Only 0.5% of the people on the Anthony Nolan trust’s donor register are from East Asian backgrounds and only 1.5% are from European backgrounds and so the search for a donor is particularly difficult.
The Anthony Nolan trust, which is the UK’s largest blood cancer charity, has however reported a fivefold increase in the number of people signing up online to the register since the campaign to find a donor for Lara went viral.
David Cameron has also thrown his weight behind the campaign at this week’s PMQs in response to a question from Lara’s MP, Tulip Siddiq.
Tulip Siddiq’s question referred to the ‘spit drive’ that is happening at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road, North London between 2pm and 6pm this Saturday. Those who stop by can sign up to the bone marrow donors’ register and give a sample on the spot.
Miss Casalotti said: “I would like to thank Tulip Siddiq for bringing up the match4lara campaign at PMQs.
“I sincerely appreciate David Cameron’s support to help raise awareness of increasing numbers on the bone marrow donor registries and the issue of needing to diversify the registries so that everyone has an equal chance of finding a donor.
“The event on Saturday will be a great opportunity to get as many people as possible signed up! It’s as simple as spitting into a tube!”
The shortage on the Anthony Nolan trust’s register is also reflected in a shortage of black and ethic minority donors worldwide which means that only 1 in 5 people from BAME will be able to find a match.
Speaking after PMQs Ms Siddiq said: “I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister give his support to Lara and the campaigners working hard to find her a match.
“Lara is an inspirational young woman and I hope my exchange with the PM will encourage many more people to sign up to the bone marrow register.
“There is currently an under-representation of mixed race donors on the register, exactly the kind of people who could be a match for Lara.
“I hope today’s exchange provides the platform for a broader discussion on how to rectify this imbalance in the months ahead.”
She went on: “We are expecting big numbers on Saturday and I’d like to thank the Anthony Nolan Trust and the O2 centre for their help in making it happen.”