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Spit Happens: Loughborough University partners with key charities to increase number of stem cell donors

Loughborough University, Loughborough Students' Union, Anthony Nolan and the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign (RBLC) are joining forces to try and increase the number of potential stem cell donors.

Since 1974, the Anthony Nolan register has made 15,000 stem cell transplants possible but it’s still the case that only 60% of individuals in need of a transplant find the best possible life-saving match they need; this figure drops dramatically to just 20% if you are from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background.

On Wednesday 15 March there will be multiple sites across the Loughborough campus in which individuals aged 16-30 can complete a short form, provide a saliva sample, and join the register.

The ‘Spit Happens’ event is being supported by University staff and student volunteers to guide potential donors through the registration process. It also aims to break the national record for the number of registrations carried out in one day, which currently stands at 1,404.

Professor Steve Rothberg, Pro Vice Chancellor of Research at Loughborough University, received a life-saving stem cell donation through Anthony Nolan after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2009.

He commented: “None of us likes to think that we might suffer a serious illness like a blood cancer but that’s exactly what happened to me. Anthony Nolan found me a donor. They saved my life. They did the same for my friend Rik Basra. We are both grateful beyond words that our donors, both strangers, gave this incredible gift to save our lives.

“This event will be a real celebration of Loughborough pulling together to showcase the vital work of Anthony Nolan and RBLC in supporting individuals and their families affected by blood cancer.”

Rik Basra, who also received a stem cell donation via Anthony Nolan in 2011, founded the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign to raise awareness of blood cancers and encourage informed registrations to the stem cell register. He added: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with Loughborough University and the Students' Union on what is set to be a landmark event.

“We aim to recruit stem cell donors in record breaking numbers but the real target will, of course, be to save lives.”

Urging registrations from a diverse range of people, Ann O'Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, said: “Anyone aged 16-30 and in good health can join the Anthony Nolan register, but we especially need more young men and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to come forward.

“By diversifying the register and increasing the number of potential lifesavers, we hope to find a match for everyone in need of a stem cell transplant.”

Chris Lane, a former student at Loughborough University who went on to donate his stem cells, said: “In all honesty, it is one of those things you do and don't think too much more about, or appreciate that one day you may get a call to be a lifesaver. I had never thought about how I would feel or react to being told that I was required to donate, but when it happened I felt a sense of pride. I had no second thought but to follow through with whatever was needed.”

He added: “It makes it so real as to why donating is important, that there is someone in desperate need. I feel so invested in their journey and really wish that the recipient makes a full recovery. Life is the best gift you could ever give someone, so my fingers are always crossed.”

Further information on eligibility requirements and the registration process is available on the Anthony Nolan website and the University’s dedicated event page.

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