Non-profit aims to find asian donor for cancer-stricken child

Chennai, March 17: A bone marrow donor drive held on Sunday at R.A Puram in a bid to find a matching donor for a 2-year-old baby in Boston has raised hopes of finding a perfect match from her ethnic background.

“The number of volunteers who turned up was only around 30, compared to the turnout of close to a 100 in drives held in Delhi and Noida. However, we are hopeful of finding a match for her as there are more chances of having an Asian donor match, ” said Sethulakshmi, an employee of DATRI, the non-profit that organised the drive.

The child, Mira, who is of Indian origin, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer, in 2015 and was put through several cycles of chemotherapy. However, she suffered a relapse late last year and her parents have been struggling to find her a match. DATRI has been coordinating drives in India on her behalf and has already conducted them in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

“Our purpose for holding the drive was specifically to find matches for Mira and another person, Vidya, a 24-year-old student of Sri Lankan origin in London. They couldn’t find matches in the international donor registry, so looking for an Asian donor would be their best shot,” said Hinduja S, spokesperson for DATRI.

The procedure for finding a match entails taking cheek swabs of potential donors, and then testing them for the correct human leukocyte antigen (HLA). Optimally, a perfect match is preferred since the chances of rejection are high. The data is then stored in the registry for use whenever a patient requires a match. If matched with a patient, the donor can choose either to donate stem cells from the bone marrow, or to donate peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs), based on the nature of the disease.

“The doctors’ division at the particular transplant centre makes a call on which patient will get priority over others. Mostly the criteria involved are severity of the disease and the age of the patient. Mira falls under both categories, and hence it is essential we find her a donor immediately. It takes between 30 to 45 days to correctly identify the HLA type. So we can only know then whether we have found a match for her,” added Hinduja.

The child’s parents have also launched a Facebook page called Mira’s Fighters, which they regularly update with photos and information about her treatment.



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