Leukaemia Sufferer Finds Donor After Global Bid

A student diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer has found a stem cell donor despite a "needle in a haystack" search.

Lara Casalotti, 24, from Hampstead in north London was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December 2015.

She was told during a trip to Thailand that her best hope of a cure was a stem cell transplant.

Her mixed Thai & Italian heritage meant the odds of finding a match were unlikely with only 3% of mixed-race donors on public stem cell registers worldwide.

Her story prompted a global campaign to assist Lara find a match.

Celebrities, including Prime Minister David Cameron & novelist JK Rowling, backed the Match4Lara appeal launched by cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

After searching various countries, including Thailand, the US & Italy, the organisation found a match.

The donor’s identity has to be kept a secret due to patient-donor confidentiality regulations yet it is hoped they will donate their stem cells in March.

Lara, who is studying for a Masters in global migration at University College London, said: "Thanks to everyone’s immense support, I have always stayed hopeful that I would find one, yet I realise how lucky I have been given how difficult it was to find that donor.

"I want to keep urging people to sign up to the donor registries so that everyone can have a chance of finding their match," she said.

Lara’s mother, Supanya, said: "As a mum, I feel pure relief as we knew the odds were stacked against Lara.

"Whoever the donor is, they will never, ever know how grateful I am. The transplant is still a few weeks away & I wish I could wrap them in cotton wool to keep them safe.

"We know we have a long road ahead as a transplant is an extremely serious procedure, yet knowing there is a satisfactory match for Lara is a weight off our shoulders that we desperately needed."

Lara’s brother, Seb, 20, said: "We’ve been so lucky in finding a match yet we know that others are not so fortunate.

"The Match4Lara events planned around the world over the coming weeks will go ahead as planned, so that other families can one day receive the same satisfactory news.

"This campaign was hatched around the dinner table & we never expected it to receive such incredible support – we were inspired by the Match4Aary campaign, who is still waiting for a match, so we need people to keep signing up to registries worldwide."

Lara’s family estimates that the number of people worldwide who have joined a stem cell register as a result is well in excess of 20,000.

Anthony Nolan moreover saw an unprecedented spike in new donors from black, Asian, ethnic minority & mixed race backgrounds in the UK.

Ann O’Leary, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, said: "We’re over the moon that we’ve been able to find a suitable donor for Lara & that she’s now able to commence her transplant journey.

"We’re so grateful to Lara & all of her incredible supporters for spreading the word approximately the simple yet vital act of donating stem cells. By diversifying the donor register, they have given hope to so many other people from ethnic minority & mixed race communities."

Source: “Sky News”