Becoming a Bone Marrow Donor

Last Modified: July 14, 2007

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I have a friend with a family member in need of a bone marrow transplant at University of Pennsylvania . I would like to see if I am a match. Would you advise me on how to begin the process?

Answer

Joanne Hinkle, BSN, OCN, Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Program Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania responds:

I understand that you would like to have human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing completed to see if you could possibly be a match for a friend of yours who needs a donor. First, I should explain that it would be extremely unlikely and very rare for a person to find a donor from someone they know, other than a sibling. There are an astronomical number of different antigen combinations that make it almost impossible to find matches. However, the reason we are able to find matches is that when we look into all of the bone marrow registries in the world, we are searching among more than 10 million donors. The best chance for your friend's doctors to find a good match is to search the National Registry, as well as all of the other registries throughout the world.

If you would like to get into the National Registry, you may do so by going to the website at www.marrow.org. You can get an application there, fill it out, and return it to the address given. You will then receive a kit in the mail with instructions to swab the inside of your cheek and return the kit. There is a fee of approximately $50 to get this testing completed. This will put you into the National Registry where you may in the future be asked to get additional testing to see if you are a match with someone. If your friend's search has been started, your typing would automatically be compared with his. It is important to remember that when your typing goes into the registry, you are making a commitment to consider donating if you turn out to be a match for someone.

If you prefer not to get into the registry, you can get your testing completed on your own from a private lab. I am not sure what the cost would be, but the lab would do your typing and give you a copy of the results. You can then share those results with your friend's doctor. There are also organizations, families and community groups that fund bone marrow drives, covering the costs for people to join the registry. To find out about drives in your area, contact your local donor center . Again, please be aware it would be extremely unlikely that you would be a match with your friend. I hope that this helps answer your questions.



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