Press Release

Blood cancer charity makes urgent appeal for more lifesavers from Middle Eastern communities

Blood cancer charity DKMS is urging more people from Kurdish, Iranian and Middle Eastern communities to come forward and register as potential blood stem cell donors.

Last updated: 02/08/2021

With someone diagnosed with blood cancer every 20 minutes in the UK, there are around 2,000 people searching for their lifesaver at any one time. For many of these people, a blood stem cell transplant offers their only hope of beating the disease. But just 2% of the UK’s population are registered as potential donors – and only a tiny proportion of these are from minority ethnic communities.

Blood cancers are the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK. And whilst for most people there is no single cure, a blood stem cell donation from a genetically similar person can offer the best treatment and could help give someone in need of a transplant a second chance of life.

Somebody who knows this all too well is Dr Shahin Nouri, 57, an Iranian-Kurd who has been diagnosed with two rare and aggressive forms of lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. He has been told his only chance of beating the disease will come from a matching blood stem cell donor.

Dr Shahin currently lives in New York where he is a doctor of neurology, and the Founder and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYP- Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Having dedicated his career to improving the health of others, Dr Shahin is only too aware of the personal challenge he now faces – not least the severe shortage of blood stem cell donors with Iranian and Kurdish heritage.

He said: “At this point my only chance of survival is to find a matching blood stem cell donor within the next 3-4 months. Sadly, donors of Middle Eastern heritage are few and far between on the register, and ethnicity plays a major factor in finding a suitable match.”

“I believe my lifesaver is out there somewhere, but the fact is they are far more likely to come from a Middle Eastern background. Therefore, I am urging people from Iranian, Kurdish and related ethnic communities to please sign up with DKMS as a potential blood stem cell donor.

“Even if I don’t find my match, this honourable act of signing up as a potential blood stem cell donor could save many lives.”

Reshna Radiven, Head of Communications and Engagement at DKMS UK, said: “There is an urgent need for more people to come forward and register as potential blood stem cell donors. The process of signing up is incredibly easy, done via a simple mouth swab which is sent to you at home.

“We are in particular need of more people from Middle Eastern communities to sign up to the register. For a patient of white, north European origin, there is a 69% chance of finding a matching donor if they need one. This drops to just 20% for those from minority ethnic backgrounds. The fact is, people from Middle Eastern backgrounds are hugely underrepresented on the register, and we need to increase the donor pool to help patients from these communities”.

If you are aged between 17 and 55 and in general good health take the first step to register as a blood stem cell donor by registering for your home swab kit at www.dkms.org.uk/Shahin.

Contact:

For further information please contact James Davies, DKMS Senior PR and Celebrity Officer on 020 8747 5650 or email James.Davies@dkms.org.uk


Notes to Editor:

About DKMS

  • DKMS is a global not for profit organisation that started in Germany in 1991 around one family’s search for a donor. Dr. Peter Harf founded DKMS in honour of his wife Mechtild, who had sadly lost her battle with blood cancer. Peter promised his wife to help every blood cancer patient searching for a matching donor.
  • Today, DKMS operates in Germany, USA, Poland, Chile, India, South Africa and the UK.
  • DKMS is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer through recruiting stem cell donors and providing second chances of life; creating awareness of blood disorders and raising funds to match donor registration costs.
  • To date, DKMS has registered over 10 million potential blood stem cell donors worldwide. Over 90,000 people around the world have received a potentially lifesaving blood stem cell donation through DKMS.
  • In the UK, DKMS has registered over 857,000 blood stem cell donors to date and helped to give over 1,200 people a second chance of life.
  • DKMS launched in the UK in 2013. DKMS is the trading name of DKMS Foundation, a registered charity in England and Wales (1150056) and Scotland (SC046917). DKMS is a limited company registered in England and Wales (08151279).

Blood stem cell donation

  • To be considered a match, the donor and patient must share similar tissue characteristics.
  • If you match with someone who needs a blood stem cell donation, the two methods through which blood stem cells are collected are either: a donation of peripheral stem cells collected via the blood stream (around 90 per cent of donations are made this way) or a donation of bone marrow collected from the back of the pelvic bone.
  • Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma (Cancer Research UK, 2014).
  • About 2,000 people each year in the UK are in need of a blood stem cell transplant.


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