Cheek swabs help bone marrow donors match with patients | The Enterprise
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Cheek swabs help bone marrow donors match with patients

Posted on June 10, 2021

Local news
Deputy Jamel Winstead of the Nash County Sheriff's Office swabs his cheeks as event organizer Heather Louise Finch waits to collect the DNA sample for cancer research during a Be the Match “swab-thru” held Sunday at Bailey Baptist Church.

Lindell J. Kay | Enterprise

Deputy Jamel Winstead of the Nash County Sheriff's Office swabs his cheeks as event organizer Heather Louise Finch waits to collect the DNA sample for cancer research during a Be the Match “swab-thru” held Sunday at Bailey Baptist Church.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

BAILEY — To help increase the donor repository for blood cancer research, volunteers are holding drive-thru swab events in southern Nash County and nearby communities where prospective donors can provide their DNA for possible matches.

The first event was held Sunday  in the Bailey Baptist Church parking lot. More “swab-thrus” are planned, but specifics aren’t yet available.

Every year, tens of thousands of people need a bone marrow transplant. For many patients with blood disorders and cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, this treatment is their only hope. While some patients can find a matching donor within their family, 70% have to rely on a stranger.

Registered donors have a 1 in 430 chance of being matched to a recipient. Many patients can’t find the lifesaving donor they need. Only 2% of the population is on the registry, and people of color are underrepresented, meaning patients of African, Latino and Asian descent have a more challenging time finding a matching donor.

Bailey native Heather Louise Finch hosted the swab-thru. She is a Woman of the Year candidate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of the Greater Washington, D.C., region’s annual campaign. Finch returned to North Carolina during the pandemic to care for her mother and later her uncle, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2020.

“I accepted the nomination with one purpose, to fight for those who are fighting for their lives from underrepresented backgrounds,” Finch said.

To advance cancer research and discover new treatments, clinical trials need to reflect the United States’ population diversity. Blood cancer doesn’t discriminate, and people of every age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status are affected. Research has shown that populations at risk for cancer health disparities are also less likely than other groups to participate in clinical trials or join the donor registry.

“There is a misperception that information is handed over to U.S. officials that could cause deportation or tracking people, which is false,” Finch said. “It’s essential for people to understand the facts. We keep evolving as a society, so more samples are needed for research and matches.”

Over the past 30 years, Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, working every day to save lives through transplants.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society says it’s the largest funder of cutting-edge research to advance cures among blood cancer nonprofits, investing nearly $1.3 billion in research.

To learn more about becoming a cord blood or bone marrow donor, visit https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause.

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