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DALLAS (Feb. 11, 2014) – This Valentine’s Day, Children’s Medical Center will serve as a special kind of matchmaker – between children who have life-threatening diseases, like cancers and blood disorders, and healthy adults in the community who can potentially save their lives. Those volunteer donors who sign up for the national Be The Match Registry are the best and only hope for patients who do not have a compatible donor in their own families and must rely on the registry to find an unrelated person who is a genetic match.
Matches are based on comparing human leukocyte antigen (HLA) – also called tissue type – which is inherited, but isn’t necessarily matched by siblings or other family members. In fact, according to the Be The Match Registry, some 70 percent of all patients who need a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant must look outside their families for a donor.
Children’s Medical Center, which has hosted a donor drive annually since 1992, has signed more than 4,000 donors to the Be The Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. A nationally recognized leader in research and care for children with cancer and blood disorders, Children’s performs more than 35 blood and marrow stem cell transplants each year through its Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“The more people who join the registry, the greater the chance of finding a match for patients who need a life-saving transplant, and the best chance of a match may be with someone who shares the patient’s ancestry,” said Dr. Andrew Koh, Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Program for the center. He said people of African-American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian descent are under-represented in the registry and therefore particularly important, as are people with any combination of mixed-race heritage.
One change that has taken place since Children’s began hosting the donor drive is that non-surgical donation of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) has become more commonplace than bone marrow extraction, although both methods continue to be used, depending on the individual patient needs
Another development has been the use of blood and marrow stem cell transplant to treat and even cure children with severe sickle cell disease, one of the most common serious genetic disorders in the world. Sickle cell disease is most commonly found among children of African heritage, but also is found in children of South American, Central American, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Indian heritage – again pointing to the need for donor diversity.
The Be The Match Registry is open to healthy adults aged 18 to 44. Volunteers can sign up for the registry online throughout the month or in person between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, at the Ambulatory Care Pavilion at Children’s Medical Center, located at 2350 Stemmons Freeway in Dallas and in the lobby at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy, 7601 Preston Rd. in Plano. Free parking is available in front at both locations.
A simple cheek swab is all that’s required for tissue typing. Those who sign up online and use the promo code “childrens” will be sent a free kit in the mail. For those registering either in person or online, the normal $100 sign-up fee is waived as Children’s provides a donation to Be The Match cover the costs. For more information about online registration, visit www.childrens.com/bethematch.
Founded in 1913, the not-for-profit Children’s Medical Center is the sixth-largest pediatric health care provider in the country, receiving nearly 700,000 patient visits annually with 519 licensed beds at its two full-service campuses in Dallas and Plano, multiple specialty clinics and 16 primary care MyChildren’s locations. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level 1 Trauma status and is the primary pediatric facility affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. For over 100 years, Children’s had been dedicated to making life better for children. For more information, please visit childrens.com.
Stay connected to Children’s Health!