CCE Hosts a Bone Marrow Registry

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013, the CCE sponsored a Bone Marrow Registry event co-sponsored with the Charles Dew Minority Pre-Health Society, We Speak BU, BU Music Society and BU Hillel.  A total of 178 people had their cheeks swabbed for the registry, including Binghamton’s own President, Dr. Harvey Stenger.

Much of this success can be attributed to the hard work of the CCE’s Faculty-Student Scholar, Mildred Ngminebayihi.  

Mildred stressed the importance of advocating for the Bone Marrow Donor registry.

“At this particular registry event, the CCE attempted to target minorities,” said Mildred, “If a minority is diagnosed with a blood disease, and needs a Bone Marrow donation, it can be extremely difficult to find a match.”

When it comes to bone marrow matches, minorities face grim statistics. According to the National Bone Marrow Registry website, “the likelihood of a Caucasian patient finding a suitable donor in the bone marrow registry is 93%. The likelihood of a minority patient finding a suitable donor in the bone marrow registry is between 66-73%, depending on the specific ethnicity.”

While "Good Morning America" host Robin Robertshas boosted the visibility of Bone Barrow transplants in the U.S. after her successful treatment and return to the news desk, those affiliated with the blood cancer that often requires transplantation, say much more work still needs to be done, especially among African Americans. For individuals of mixed race, the chances of finding are donor are smaller still.

(Robin's return to the Good Morning America desk after receiving a transplant from her sister) 

Filmmaker/Producer Susan Brecker, who created the critically acclaimed Documentary, More to Live For, (hyperlink to film website or trailer) said Wednesday that for individuals of mixed-race descent, needing a bone marrow transplant was “a near death sentence.” Brecker was in attendance at the recent on-campus event, helping to register donors and promote awareness for her cause.

(Producer Susan Brecker, who came to BU to help register new donors)

More to Live For is the story of three lives, all shaken by cancer and dependent upon the one vital bone marrow match that could save them. The individuals profiled are: Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Michael Brecker (Susan’s late husband); James Chippendale, Entertainment Executive and Founder of Love Hope Strength Foundation, the largest music-centric cancer charity in the world, and Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian training to become the first ever Nigerian winter Olympian.

(Award Winning Musican Michael Brecker, profiled in More to Live For)

While getting 178 new people added to the registry is a great achievement, Mildred assures us that the CCE will strive to sign up even more students at future Bone Marrow Donor events.

“People were hesitant to get swabbed because they thought that they were going to have to donate Bone Marrow right there,” said Mildred, “But once you explain that it’s just a simple swab on the inside of your cheek and not an absolute commitment to give marrow even if you are a match, people were more than willing to help. They were enthusiastic! I also explained how the extraction of Bone Marrow has evolved. It’s much, much less invasive now. People have nothing to be afraid of.”

At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers set out to understand how to begin to close the bone marrowdonation gap, conducting a study on why African Americans and other minorities opt-out of transplant registries at rates far higher than whites.

They found that four factors contribute to the high rate of registry dropouts, including religious objections, less trust that stem cells would be allocated equitably, more concerns about donation, and a greater likelihood of having been discouraged from donating. These factors help to explain why approximately 60 percent of potential minority donors who register opt out before donation, compared with 40 percent of whites.

Thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow transplant. They depend on programs like the “Be The Match Registry” (http://marrow.org/Home.aspx) to find a match. Consider becoming a donor today! You could save a life. 

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