Call for stem cell donations from people of ethnic minority backgrounds

People from mixed-race or ethnic minority backgrounds have "unfair" survival odds if they need a stem cell donation because of a lack of donors with the same heritage, a charity has warned.

New figures from the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry show that demand for donors from people of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds outstrips the number of people from such backgrounds signing up to the register.

Out of 133,367 people who signed up to the register in 2015, just 0.6% were of African descent, 1.9% were African Caribbean and 0.5% were East Asian.

Woman checks blood
(Jake May/AP)

Figures show that 69% of patients with white Northern European genetic heritage receive the best possible match.

But this figure drops to just 20.5% for patients from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background, the charity said.

"Progress has been made in 2015 to recruit more BAME donors, but we still have so much to do in diversifying the register," said Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan.

"While the potential pool of donors from BAME backgrounds is inevitably smaller, we need to continue to inspire and engage these communities to join the register as unfair survival odds still hamper people from BAME backgrounds.'

Test tubes filled with stem cells
(Andre Penner/AP)

"Patient power" through high-profile appeals capturing the public's attention has generated significant spikes in potential lifesavers applying to join the registers, the report shows.

"Sharing these stories and the challenges BAME patients face is one of the most effective ways to raise awareness and motivate individuals from BAME communities to join the register," the report added.

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