Press Release

Cancer patient in desperate search of stranger following relapse

With no match currently available on the register for her, Alice and her family and urgently appealing for more people to register as stem cell donors.

Last updated: 26/03/2021
  • Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma.
  • 2 in 3 people with a blood cancer (and in need of a transplant) will be forced to look outside of their own family.
  • Only 2% of the UK population are registered as potential blood stem cell donors.

This month, blood cancer charity DKMS has received 50% fewer registrations than they would have hoped to see pre-pandemic.

The pandemic has led to a drop in registrations and has meant fewer people are visiting the GP with cancer symptoms, and resulted in hospital appointments and treatments being postponed or cancelled.

Due to this, DKMS expects a surge in blood cancer diagnoses and increased demand for blood stem cell donors when we are ‘back to normal’, making it all the more important that people register now.

Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with blood cancer and the register of stem cell donors – who are needed to save thousands of patients’ lives – does not currently meet the demand. Every year over 2,000 people in the UK are left searching for a matching blood stem cell donor each year.

Alice Hanagan, a 33 year old woman from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire is sadly one of the thousands of patients desperately in need of a stem cell donation to save her life. With only 1 in 3 finding a blood stem cell donor match within their own family, Alice is one of the many (2 in 3) unfortunate ones who must rely on the international stem cell register for a match.

After travelling the world for a few years for her dream job at a skincare company, it was easy for Alice to put her increasing exhaustion down to jetlag and constant travel. But after falling unwell with reoccurring tonsillitis a number of times she decided to visit her doctor for some further tests. Her doctor referred her to a haematologist after noticing her blood tests weren’t quite right and she had unusual bruising.

Nine months later after a number of tests at the hospitals, Alice was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in December 2019. “After receiving my diagnosis I felt like I was in a bubble. Everything was in a dream state. The consultant wanted me to start treatment straight away, but I was concerned about my fertility so I delayed it slightly to get my eggs collected. This wasn’t recommended but it was really important to me.”

After undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy in January 2020 and being isolated in a room by herself for 148 days during treatment, Alice entered remission. But only 6 months later she received the devastating news that she had relapsed. Now as Alice receives ongoing chemotherapy once again, a stem cell donation is her best chance of survival.

With no match currently available on the register for her, Alice and her family and urgently appealing for more people to register as stem cell donors.

Alice said, “Registering as a donor is one of the easiest processes and only takes a couple of minutes online. DKMS send you the swabs, you swab the inside of your cheeks for a couple of minutes, then post it back to them for free. That’s all there is to it.”

If you are called upon to be a match for someone, there are two donation methods. Around 90% of all donations are made through a method called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection. This method is very similar to giving blood. It involves blood being taken from one of the donor’s arms, and a machine separates the blood stem cells from it. The donor’s blood is then returned to them through their other arm. This is an outpatient procedure that is usually completed in 4-6 hours.

In just 10% of cases, donations are made through bone marrow collection. Bone marrow is taken from the pelvic bone under general anaesthetic, and this lasts around an hour.

We need blood stem cell donors from all backgrounds. If you are aged between 17-55 and in good general health, you can support Arya and the other 2,000 people in need of a lifesaving blood stem cell transplant by registering online at www.dkms.org.uk/alice for your home swab kit.

By registering you’ll join a group of over 840,000 other DKMS lifesavers-in-waiting, ready to make a difference by giving someone a much-needed second chance of life.