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News: Finding a match for Lara
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    Finding a match for Lara

    Finding a match for Lara
    KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON

    THE NATION February 4, 2016 1:00 am


    A young mixed-race woman needs stem cells to beat Leukaemia and you could help save her life and the lives of others

    DESCRIBED AS THE singular initiative under which the entire world can unite in the fight against the global cancer epidemic, World Cancer Day, which falls today, is the perfect opportunity for all of us to become voluntary stem cell donors and help someone like Lara Casaotti.

    Just about everyone on the social networks will have heard of Lara, the 24-year-old half Thai-Chinese, half-Italian young woman who is at the heart of the Match4Lara campaign. Barely five weeks have passed since Lara, a student who lives in the UK, was diagnosed with rapidly progressing Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The doctors have given her until April to live and say the only way she can be saved is through a bone marrow transplant.

    Her search for compatible bone marrow or stem cells, which was launched by her family after the lab revealed her brother was not a match, has become a world phenomenon, meriting reports on CNN, the BBC and other international news networks, as well as being cited by Prime Minister David Cameron in the British Parliament.

    The Telegraph newspaper reported Cameron's endorsement, quoting him as saying "I certainly will join the Honourable Lady [Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn] in supporting Lara's campaign. I have had meetings with the bone marrow organisations in No 10 Downing Street to support the matching campaign."

    Cameron is probably the highest profile personality to back the campaign, which has already enlisted the support of novelist JK Rowling, actor Stephen Fry, fashion photographer Mario Testino, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, among others.

    With a shortage of ethnic minority donors across the world - they number less than 3 per cent on the public stem cell register - than 20 per cent of people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds who need a stem cell transplant will find a perfect match.

    For this reason, Rowling's tweet - "Please RT! A Eurasian donor is desperately needed to save this young womans life. Do your thing, Twitter!" - makes a lot of sense.

    In Thailand mixed-race actresses Araya "Chompoo" A Hargate and Morakot "Aimee" Kittisara, as well as other famous personalities have joined the stem cell donation registry.

    Haematologist Dr Udomsak Bunworasate of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, notes that due to Lara's complex heritage, finding a match is extremely difficult.

    "Leukaemia is cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. There are two types, acute leukaemia and chronic leukaemia. With the perfect [Human Leukocyte Antigen] HLA match, the stem cell transplantation is the best method of treatment and will help save a leukaemia patient's life," the doctor notes. "Only a twin from the same egg will have a 100-per-cent HLA match; twins from different eggs have a likely 75-per-cent, otherwise it's about 25-per-cent chance that a sibling will match."

    While Lara's family set up the campaign to find a donor for her, the drive has now spread to include all leukaemia sufferers.

    Lara herself says in her video clip, "No matter what happens, whether I get match or not, Match4Lara will help all leukaemia patients just like me in the future." She also asks that people not simply "like" or "share" but undergo the test and donate.

    Thanks to the attention the campaign has received in the UK, British charity Anthony Nolan, the largest stem cell donor registry, has attracted 12,000 new registrations in less than a month, a 400-per-cent increase over the whole of last year.

    The figure is much lower here in Thailand where, according to Dr Udomsak, 170,000 stem cell donors have registered since 2002, most of them following the 1,900 appeals for stem cell transplantation. However only 202 of these desperately ill patients found a match.

    Lara has not yet found her match.

    "In Lara's case finding a match is even more challenging," says Lara's cousin, Dr Sutee Mokhavesa. "The whole point about the HLA matching is that the white blood cell is like a warrior that protects foreign invaders. The question is that how they know the other cells are friends not foes. Imagine you are in Bangkok and walk around looking for people dressed in shirts and trousers. That's very easy. But once you are more specific and try a find a person wearing a pink shirt with white dots and jeans with a tear on the right knee, it becomes near impossible. The same applies to finding a person with a very high specificity. That's why we need as many people as possible to come and register because they do not know their genetic makeup or their HLA," he says.

    "Lara has always had a volunteering spirit. Right now she's studying for a master's in global migration at University College London. She volunteers with at-risk youth and marginalised groups, and has worked at Human Rights Watch and as a volunteer with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Thailand.

    "Here she researched migrant workers conditions. Not long afterwards she experienced very aggressive pain, which was later diagnosed as leukaemia. She's undergoing chemotherapy. She told me through Line that the first session was very tough, but her spirit is still very high," he says.

    Becoming a stem cell donor is not as difficult and painful as one might think, says Dr Udomsak, explaining that the staff of the Thai Red Cross National Blood Centre, will take just 5cc of blood to check for HLA.

    "This is then registered in our central database, which can also be linked internationally. If you are happen to be the perfect match, we will do more tests.

    "There are two methods of donation; peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow. The patient's doctor will choose which one is best for the patient. The bone marrow method is the old technique. It is a surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital. Doctors use needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. Donors receive anaesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. It requires a one to day stay in hospital," he explains

    "PBSC donation is a non-surgical procedure. For five days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of filgrastim, a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. On the day of donation, blood is removed through a needle on one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm. This is the preferred method.

    "There are also the cordblood stem cells, which have received a lot of publicity in recent years. The problem here is that the cells are very limited and thus not sufficient for adults, so it can be only used only for child patients," he notes.

    Treatment for leukaemia can be complex so help to make it simpler by becoming a donor. You could well save a life.

    MAKE A

    DIFFERENCE

    n To register as a donor in Thailand, visit the Thai Red Cross National Blood Centre and join the Thai Stem Cell Donor Registry. Do mention that you are there because of the match4Lara campaign.

    n The centre's staff will carefully explain how it all works and ask you to sign a consent form. Once this is done, you will be asked to donate blood and a sample will be taken for HLA testing. The science behind the HLA testing is very complicated and the lab work will take at least 20 days so there is no need to wait for the results. You can now go home knowing that you have just potentially saved someone's life.

    n Once the lab determines your HLA typing, the results will be automatically entered into the Donor Registry system waiting for recipients that match. Only in the unlikely event that your HLA typing is identified as a potential match will you be contacted by the National Registry.

    n To qualify as a donor, you must be:

    l Aged 17-70.

    l In excellent health, with a weight higher than 45kg.

    l Have no history of hepatitis or jaundice.

    l Have no history of malarial fever for the past three years and no sexually transmitted diseases, or infectious diseases. You must not have a persistent cough, be coughing up blood, have haemophilia or have blood-related diseases, suffer from asthma, allergy, epilepsy, long-term skin diseases, kidney disease, heart problems, diabetes or thyroid problems.

    l No considerable weight loss.

    l No risky behaviour such as sexual promiscuity and no record of drug use.

    l Blood donations are not recommended for six months after a medical operation, child delivery, or abortion. In case of receiving donated blood, allow one year before giving blood.

    l Female donors must not be menstruating or pregnant.

    l Donors must not have resided in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996, a period that saw outbreaks of Foot and Mouth (Mad Cow) disease.

    l For more information, call (02) 256 4300 and (02) 252 1637.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Finding a match for Lara

    For anyone who's following this story, while not 100% out of the woods yet, things look promising for Lara. Fingers crossed the 9/10 match will work for her.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2...tem-cell-donor
    Last edited by Arwing; 22-03-16 at 07:04 PM.

  4. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Arwing For This Useful Post:

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