The Anthony Nolan Trust has been running events in Parliament to raise awareness about stem cells and blood cancer.
Stem cell transplants are a key treatment for blood cancers, with over 2,000 people a year across the United Kingdom requiring a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. As such I am pleased that a unified United Kingdom stem cell registry has been established – the Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry – streamlining the provision of stem cells for transplant. This has helped increase the number of registered blood stem cell donors from 770,000 in 2010 to over 1.4 million as of 2017.
On BAME donors, you are correct, more awareness needs to be raised within the BAME community about donating blood, stem cells and body parts. In the United Kingdom last year of the 1400 people who donated organs after they died only 29 were Asian, 22 were black and 14 were mixed race. The Government is taking steps to establish donation as a normal act, that is why the ‘opt out' system is being rolled out. The Government is also running a campaign alongside the National BAME Transplant Alliance to raise awareness and break down some of the barriers to donation.
Family refusal continues to be the biggest obstacle within BAME communities, around half as many families support organ donation when compared with families from a white background. The new campaign is not only pulling together communities and campaign groups but faith leaders, MPs, businesses and the NHS. Thanks to the media attention on this subject, this year more people than ever from BAME backgrounds have received life saving transplants. More work needs to be done here, but even getting the communities talking about donation is having a positive impact.
I am confident that continued investment into ways of diagnosing blood cancers earlier, as well as increasing the pool of available stem cell donors, will help to drive up survival rates of leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma up even further.