Anthony Nolan held a cross-party Parliamentary event in Parliament raising awareness of their stem cell donor register, which Mark Tami MP attended.
The Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign and #Match4Meena, were supported by their local Member of Parliament Neil O’Brien and blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, to hold the event to give MPs the opportunity to hear more about the 740,000 people in the UK on the Anthony Nolan register. MPs heard about the need for more young, male donors and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to join the register.
At the event, Fighting Blood Cancer at The Houses of Parliament, Mark Tami heard about Meena Kumari-Sharma a 41-year-old who desperately needs a stem cell transplant to treat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Meena, who has moved to Leicester as she receives treatment, is a mother of two who enjoys outdoor activities with her children. She has been appealing to the Asian community to join the stem cell register because, given her Indian heritage, Meena’s donor will most likely have a similar background.
Ahead of the event Meena said: “I am truly honoured to be supported by Parliament in my search for a stem cell donor. I represent one of over 2,000 people in the UK urgently searching for a donor and it is only with the sheer kindness of complete strangers that I can have a second chance at life.
“I am hopeful that with your help I will be able to watch my five-year-old twins grow up. Together we can all make a huge difference.”
MPs heard from former Leicestershire Police officer Rik Basra, who received a stem cell transplant via Anthony Nolan in 2011. Rik, and his wife Kas, founded the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign to increase the understanding of the many types of blood cancer and encourage people to join the UK stem cell register.
Rik Basra said: “It’s an absolute privilege to be holding an event in the Houses of Parliament. We’re here to boost awareness of blood cancer and demonstrate just how simple it is to save a life. That said, too many are still dying for want of a stem cell donor, stimulating debate to think up new ways to combat this awful disease is crucial.
“We’d encourage as many Members of Parliament and staff to drop-in for a chat and hopefully persuade many to lend support and become lifesavers too.”
Mark Tami said: “This is something I feel passionately about as I have worked extensively with Anthony Nolan and the APPG for Stem Cell Transplants to raise awareness of stem cell transplants.
“The lack of diversity on the register is something we have been working hard to address for some time now. Although we have made some progress a lot more needs to be done to increase the number of potential stem cell donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
“Right now, white Europeans have a 69% chance of finding the best possible match, while people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds have just a 20.5% chance. This is obviously not right and I hope politicians work together to tackle this inequality”
Anthony Nolan recruits people aged 16-30 to the stem cell register as research has shown younger people, especially young men, are most likely to be chosen to donate their stem cells. The charity also carries out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provide information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “People in the UK have always been incredibly supportive of our work and the need for more donors on the stem cell register. We urgently need more people aged 16-30, and from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to sign up and give people hope
“It’s time to rally once more to get the message out loud and clear, so that we can find a match for every person that needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant. We are urging everybody to support the #Match4Meena campaign by signing up to the register or by spreading the word about our work.”
Follow and support the campaign on social media by using -#ParliamentVBloodCancer. For more information about Anthony Nolan visit www.anthonynolan.org