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Searching for a bone marrow donor with an uncommon ethnicity.

on Monday, 30 December 2013.

A Bone Marrow Donor Drive

I want to share a story about a man searching for an HLA matched donor for his wife. I changed the names of the story for anonymity but this is an authentic circumstance we often encounter in our field. Three weeks ago, Ben called Kashi Labs ( with questions about HLA testing. He had been recommended to us by his wife’s transplant coordinator. He began to tell me his wife, Mary, was diagnosed with leukemia and they were searching for a suitable match for her stem cell transplant. He hoped to locate a match while his wife was still in remission; the doctors gave Mary about 5 – 6 weeks before she would be out of remission. This made time a critical factor. Additionally, Mary has an uncommon ethnic background to the United States. When a query of the National Registry was made, no suitable matches were available to Mary (please know the National Registry is making outstanding efforts to recruit more donors of many ethnic backgrounds).


Ben and Mary had two very positive elements on their side: a short but feasible opportunity of time for HLA testing and many of their fellow church-goers were of the same ethnicity. Making the circumstances even more manageable was that Kashi Labs has a guaranteed turnaround time of 5 – 7 business days and there are no requirements to being HLA typed as a donor for a patient because it is private HLA typing. Ben and I went to work immediately orchestrating a private HLA test drive for his wife. We trained him on how to best direct the private drive, how to educate the volunteers and donors and expedited all the necessary materials to his home. After the drive, Ben returned the pre-paid shipper back to Kashi Labs and our lab team began the testing process immediately. There was not a match in the first batch or the second one he sent the following week. This is the reality of HLA testing: you never know who is going to be a match but you want to know you did absolutely everything you could for your patient. We are still looking for a suitable match for Mary while she is in remission. As a backup plan, if we do not discover an HLA matched donor, Mary’s circumstance will allow her to be transplanted with partial matching cord blood units.

Offering HLA testing services and education along the way to Ben has been very gratifying. I very much admire Ben’s fighting spirit for his wife. We send our best wishes of health and strength to Mary.