Two local fraternities are lending a helping hand to the American Red Cross and families of individuals searching for suitable bone marrow donors.
The Nu Alpha Kappa and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities will be hosting a bone marrow drive in the MultiCultural Center meeting rooms on Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Nu Alpha Kappa President Jorge Trujillo said the drive’s sponsors want Latinos and African-Americans to register as donors. A bone marrow match is more likely to be found within the same ethnic group, and bone marrow banks often lack a suitable match for non-Caucasian patients. According to the American Red Cross, up to 70 percent of patients with bone diseases, such as leukemia and certain anemias, have no family match and must turn to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) in hopes of finding an unrelated donor..
The Latino-based Nu Alpha Kappa and the African-American based Alpha Phi Alpha are hosting the drive to help bolster the number of registered Latino and African-American bone marrow types. Trujillo said he hopes the drive will repeat the success of previous ones.
“Through the three years that we have hosted the bone marrow drive, we have had two matches.” Trujillo said.
Although the aim of the drive is to find matching bone marrow types for Latino and African-American patients, Nu Alpha Kappa Community Service Chair Jason Georgiou said students from other ethnic groups are also encouraged to participate.
“Anyone can come,” Georgiou said. “We’re looking for Latino and African-American donors especially, but anyone who wants to help can register.”
Karen Messick, a representative of the Red Cross, said the drive would help diversify the catalogue of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types. HLA is the system of assigning a type to blood and tissue.
“When the NMDP was founded, the extent of HLA diversity was not known. Therefore, in the first several years of the program, Caucasians were much more likely to find matches because volunteers were mostly Caucasian,” Messick said. “In 1993, however, the NMDP launched four education and recruitment initiatives to recruit potential donors from minority racial and ethnic groups: African Americans Uniting for Life, Asian-Pacific Islander Donors Can Save Lives, Hispanics Giving Hope, and Keep the Circle Strong, [a group for American Indians and native Alaskans].”
Although heightened awareness of the necessity for diversified HLA types has improved the chances of non-Caucasian patients to find donors, Messick said finding matches for non-Caucasian patients is still difficult.
“Since 1993, more than 3 million donors have been added to the registry. This increase in new volunteers and advancements in tissue typing technology have greatly improved the likelihood of a patient finding at least one HLA matched donor,” she said. “Despite this success, patients from some minority groups are still less likely to find an HLA-matched volunteer donor than a Caucasian. The NMDP continues to work to increase the chances for all minorities.”
Organizations interested in becoming involved and holding a marrow registration drive can contact the American Red Cross Marrow Donor Program at 1 (800) 246-7877. For more information, visit the NMDP website at www.marrow.org.