A&M to host bone marrow donor drive

Posted: February 22, 2012 at 8:39 am


Published Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:12 AM By MAGGIE KIELY

Two Texas A&M cancer awareness organizations are encouraging people to participate in an event that could save lives.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 1 and March 2 at the Recreation Center, residents will have an opportunity to register their bone marrow into a global data base used to help patients waiting for a donor match.

Spearheading the drive are Christina Ruiz, president of the Texas A&M Cancer Society, and Courtney Hawes, president of Texas A&M American Childhood Cancer Organization.

The two campus groups have teamed up with DKMS, a global bone marrow donor center, for the event.

Registering bone marrow involves swabbing the inside of the person's cheek to gather tissue used to determine the DNA type.

Amy Roseman, donor recruitment coordinator for DKNS Texas region, said finding a match is a challenge for many patients.

"What we're looking for is a genetic twin, so it's really hard to find a match," she said. "Within a family, a patient only has a 30 percent chance of matching a relative."

Each year, there are about 20,000 patients seeking a match, but only four out of 10 are successful, she said.

That's why it's so important to increase the size of the bone marrow data base: "The more the marrower," said Roseman.

Roseman said that 80 percent of patients in need of bone marrow donations are looking for blood stem cells, while only 20 percent -- mainly children -- require a full transplant.

Giving the stem cells involves a process similar to donating blood, she said.

To donate bone marrow, the donor is put under anesthesia while doctors draw tissue from the pelvic bone.

All of the procedures are paid for by DKNS, she said.

Ruiz, a junior molecular and cell biology major, said her plan is to become an oncologist.

Cancer entered her world in middle school when her best friend's mother was diagnosed with lymphoma.

The friend's mom, who had been her after-school caretaker, died her freshman year, but because of two bone marrow transplants, she was able to live longer than expected.

Hawes said several of her family members have been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer since her middle school years, which is what prompted her to join the campus cancer society as a freshman.

She founded ACCO last summer and has recruited about 30 members since, she said.

The cancer society has about 40 members, Ruiz said, adding that most of their work centers around raising awareness about cancer prevention and ways people can contribute to research or treatments.

Josh Lemon, a freshman visualization major from Waco, said he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma -- a rare form of bone cancer -- two years ago as a senior in high school.

Even though he didn't receive a bone marrow transplant, he did require a platelet transfusion, which wouldn't have been possible without a donor.

"For me, it was very beneficial that someone had donated," he said. "You never know, you may know someone who will be affected by cancer."

For more information about what it takes to register or become a bone marrow donor, visit getswabbed.org.

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A&M to host bone marrow donor drive

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