UK Stem Cell Register Increases to 1.6 million

4 July 2019

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation, supported by members of the UK’s aligned stem cell registry, held an event today (3 July) to celebrate the 205,000 people who joined the registry last year.

The State of the Registry 2018 - 2019 report, launched today, shows that while the number of potential blood stem cell donors now stands at 1.6 million, many more people are still needed to come forward so that everyone who needs a blood stem cell donation, can find their matching donor.

This year’s review highlights that men under 30 are again still significantly under represented on the registry and make up just 12 per cent, highlighting the need of raising greater awareness of their lifesaving potential amongst this group.

Call to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic donors

The review also found that donors from minority ethnic backgrounds currently make up just 14 per cent of the registry. People from minority ethnic backgrounds have just a 20 per cent chance of finding the best possible stem cell donor match, compared to 69 per cent from a northern European background.

Alex Heaton, 28 from London first heard about DKMS in 2016 while watching television and saw an appeal by a mother whose son had blood cancer. She was asking for people to come forward as donors in order to find a match for her son.

Alex said, “The piece said that the UK Stem Cell Registry desperately needed more black, Asian and mixed race people to come forward, so I thought, why not! I went to the website that night and requested a swab kit which arrived a few days later. I swabbed my cheeks, sent it off and promptly forgot about it.”

“I got a call in late 2017 and was really happy to know that a match had been found. I donated in March 2018 via the peripheral blood stem cell process which was essentially like giving blood. I was a bit surprised to see how little blood the nurse took considering how large I am! When I saw how little they took, I asked when I could come again to donate! I recovered pretty quickly, I had a few aches and pains due to the injections before the donation but apart from that, I felt fine.”

“It is of paramount importance that more black, Asian and mixed race people come forward. With  each generation, there will be more mixed race children – so now is the perfect time for more people to come forward and donate. I would urge anyone of thinking about it to just do it!”

DKMS blood stem cell donor Alex Heaton

Positive progress, but there’s still more work to be done

Our new CEO Jonathan Pearce, said: “While I’m delighted to see the registry has increased by over 200,000 and proud that DKMS has made a significant contribution to increasing this figure, it is clear that there is still more work to be done.

At DKMS, we register people up to the age of 55 to increase the pool of donors so that everyone with a blood cancer or disorder - especially people with a rare tissue typing – has the best possible chance of survival. We must prioritise working with and engaging people from diverse community groups to raise awareness and inspire them to take action. By doing this, we can move closer towards our mission of finding a lifesaving stem cell donor match for everyone in need.”

How you can help

Your help is urgently needed. If you are between the ages of 17 – 55 and in good general health, you can go on standby to potentially save a life. Check your eligibility and sign up for your swab kit today!