Special Thanks to Lambda Phi Epsilon
Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, Inc.
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Board of Directors:

James Chang
Kevin Ching M.D.
Sharon Lau
Stella Lee Leong

Questions & Answers


Why is it important to register as a donor?

Every year, thousands of Asians and minorities are diagnosed with fatal blood diseases such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and aplastic anemia.  Many will unfortunately need a marrow or stem cell transplant for a cure.  They will need people who have similar or identical tissue type as theirs to receive a transplant for a second chance at life.  Without this procedure, they will not survive.

Because minority donors represent only 30% registered in the National Marrow Donor Program, the chances for a minority patient, looking for a match, are against them.

By registering as potential marrow donors, chances of finding a match increase the odds for patients.

What is HLA?

HLA stands for Human Leukocyte Antigen.  By getting HLA testing, you will find out your tissue type that can determine if it matches a patient’s.

HLA antigens are found on most of your cells in your body.  They also recognize which cells belong to yours and which do not.

HLA tissue types are also inherited, which means that a patient is more likely to find a match within their own race or ethnicity.

When will I donate my marrow or stem cells?

A representative from the National Marrow Donor Program will contact if you are a match for a patient. Before making your decision to donate your marrow or stem cells, you will have an informational session of the donation procedures, possible side effects, and risks.  You will also have a physical exam to ensure that donating will not pose any risk for you and the patient.

What are the donation procedures?

There are two:

Marrow donation

This is an out-patient surgical procedure.

Donors will receive anesthesia. The doctor/s will use needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone, called harvesting. After the donation, the donor will probably feel some soreness/discomfort in his/her lower back for a few days or longer.  Some doctors may have the donor stay overnight at the hospital.  The patient’s insurance will cover any costs if that occurs. The donor’s marrow completely replaces itself within four to six weeks. 

PBSC donation

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell donation is also an out-patient but not non-surgical.

Five days before donating their stem cells, the donor will receive daily injection of a drug called filgrastim, to increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. 

The donor then goes through a process called apheresis, where their blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passes through a machine that separates out the blood forming cells.  The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.

Donors may experience headache or bone or muscle aches for several days before collection.  These are the side effects of the filgrastim injections and disappear shortly after donation.

Do I have a choice of which procedure to donate?

When you joined the registry, you agreed to donate whichever method is needed.

The patient’s doctor asks for either marrow or PBSC, depending on which is best for the patient.

Will I receive any information on the patient I donated to?

Some recipient’s transplant center may provide you updates within the first year after the transplant.

There could be anonymous communication between you and your recipient after the first year.

There can also be direct contact between donors and recipients after one or two years, if both you and your recipient agree.