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ANMC to host Bone Marrow Donor Drive

May 7, 2016

Less than 1 percent of Alaska Native and American Indian people are represented in the bone marrow donor registry, the largest and most diverse stem cell registry in the world. For patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases, a bone marrow or umbilical cord stem cell transplant may be their best or only hope for a cure.

However, 70 percent of patients who need a stem cell transplant do not have a matched donor in their family. A person is more likely to find a donor from the same ethnic background, which is why we need to increase the number of Alaska Native and American Indian people in the registry to help our patients.

“For Alaska Native and American Indian people, it’s less of a waiting list issue and more about a lack of available of donors,” said Dr. Matt Olnes, ANMC Medical Director for Oncology and Hematology. “You want a donor to be matched with respect to their HLA typing, which are proteins on the cells of the body that vary within ethnic groups. Most donors in the registry are Northern European. Those of Alaska Native or American Indian descent have unique HLA patterns, which makes finding a donor problematic.”

To increase the number of Alaska Native and American Indian people in the donor registry, ANMC is hosting a Bone Marrow Donor Registry Drive next week on Tuesday, May 10. There will be 250 donor kits available at the drive, targeting adults ages 18-44. For those aged 45-60, please stop by the booth for details regarding online registration.

Donors will be required to provide a cheek swab, which will be sent to the National Marrow Donor Program to be evaluated and typed. Donors will also fill out an application and consent to be contacted later if their stem cells are needed in the future. On average, one out of every 430 people on the U.S. Be the Match Registry will go on to donate peripheral blood stem cells to a patient.

“We are excited to increase the percentage of Alaska Native and American Indian donors through a successful Bone Marrow Donor Registry Drive next week,” said Anne Marie Bott, ANTHC Oncology Pharmacist. “Your people need you! Be a part of the drive and join the registry— you never know whose life you could save.”

The Bone Marrow Donor Drive will be held on Tues., May 10, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in front of the Craft Shop on ANMC’s first floor. The first 200 interested volunteers will receive a $5 coffee card for the hospital coffee shop. For more information on bone marrow donation, please contact Anne Marie Bott at (907) 729-2143 or or visit the event page or

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