WASHINGTON -- The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), is celebrating African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month throughout July to raise awareness about the critical need for African Americans to join the national registry, publicly known as the Be The Match Registry®. Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases for which the best option for a cure can be a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor or donated cord blood unit. Approximately 70 percent of patients in need of transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. Patients are most likely to match with a donor who shares a similar racial or ethnic background, therefore making it incredibly important to diversify the registry.
The majority of patients in need of potentially life-saving bone marrow or cord blood transplant depend on the national registry for a match. This month the NMDP and CBCF are calling attention to the fact that only 7 percent of the 8 million potential donors on the national registry are African American. Fewer potential African American donors mean fewer potential matches for African American patients seeking transplant. The NMDP is committed to increasing the number of potential donors and diversifying the national registry to ensure that all Americans have access to a match.
"We are happy to partner with the NMDP to build public awareness about the importance of African Americans serving as bone marrow donors," said Elsie L. Scott, president and chief executive officer for the CBCF. "When we talk about health disparities, this is one that is easily solvable by signing up as a donor."
As part of African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month, the NMDP is sponsoring bone marrow donor registration drives during the month of July. At the NMDP and CBCF events, attendees will hear from their U.S. Representatives about the need to grow and diversify the national registry of adult donors, learn more about the NMDP and find out how they can help save a life by joining the national registry.
In addition to raising awareness about bone marrow donation, community members expressed support for efforts to grow and diversify the national registry through reauthorization of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program (Program) and the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI). In 2005, Congress passed the bipartisan Stem Cell Therapeutics and Research Act, which created the Program and the NCBI and provided federal funding for the expansion of the national registry. The Program and the NCBI will expire this year and must be reauthorized by Congress to provide continued funding to maintain and expand the national registry. Without additional funding, recruiting adult donors to join the national registry continues to be a challenge. The NMDP is currently working with Congress to secure vital funding for the Program to ensure every American in need has access to a potentially life-saving match.
"Growing the national registry starts with volunteers in communities across the country," said Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of the NMDP. "Patients in need of transplant rely on donor drives to expand the registry so that their chances of finding a potentially life-saving match increase. As growing numbers of Americans are in need of transplant, expanding and diversifying the registry is critical, which is why reauthorization of the Program and the NCBI is so urgent."
For more information, visit www.marrow.org or call 1(800) MARROW-2.
About the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)
As a leader in the field of unrelated marrow and umbilical cord blood transplantation, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is dedicated to ensuring all patients who need a transplant receive access to this potentially life-saving treatment. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the nonprofit organization manages the Be The Match Registry©; facilitates transplants worldwide; conducts research; and provides education and support to patients, donors and health care professionals. The U.S. government has entrusted the NMDP to operate the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program and provide a single point of access to marrow donors and cord blood units for a global network of hospitals, blood centers, laboratories and recruitment centers. The NMDP has facilitated more than 40,000 transplants since operation began in 1987.
About the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF)
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., was established in 1976 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and education institute to help improve the socio-economic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities.