When a person has blood cancer, doctors use chemotherapy and radiotherapy to destroy the disease. It’s effective but leaves their immune system very weak and fragile. By giving them a transplant, we can boost the number of healthy cells to kick start their immune system. But timing is critical: the donor’s stem cells must be available as soon as the treatment has finished.
The hospital starts by testing the person’s family as there’s a 40% chance of finding a sibling match. If they don’t find a match, they come to us and we start searching our donor register. We have a 1000 people on our register but because we match people by tissue type rather than blood groups, we don’t always find a match.
As opposed to a few different blood types, there are millions of different types of cell tissue. The success of a patient’s transplant depends on finding a match, otherwise their body will reject it.
So it’s simple. The more people we have on the register, the more matches we can find and the more lives we can save.