Pharmacy students encourage bone marrow registry volunteers

Above is the logo for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, the organization hosting a bone marrow registry at UConn. (Photo courtesy of their website)

As author John Green once wrote:

“Cancer sucks.”

While many forms of cancer are treatable, certain types, such as leukemia require special resources, such as a transplant of healthy bone marrow from a matching donor. Unfortunately, willing volunteers are scarce, and thousands die each year without a transplant.

The health organization Delete Blood Cancer seeks to alleviate this issue through the Bone Marrow Registry, which helps match bone and blood cancer patients to healthy, registered volunteers. The University of Connecticut Student Societies of Health System Pharmacy is currently running a table for this cause, encouraging students to submit their names to the registry, or donate to Delete Blood Cancer.

Organized by SSHP member Morgan Scheiber, the table will be running through this week and next week in the Pharmacy atrium and at Homer Babbidge Library.

“You could be saving a life,” table volunteer Justin Fugal said. “We’re trying to get as many people to register as possible.”

Eligible donors need to be between the ages of 18 to 55, in good health, not be signed into the military, live in the United States, be at least 105 lbs and 4’10”, be under a BMI of 40 and be willing to travel to a local bone marrow clinic.

Blood and marrow donations can help combat a multitude of diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia. Since many of these diseases start in the bone marrow, which helps produce red and white blood cells, a bone marrow transplant allows for healthy blood production, replacing the diseased marrow and blood cells.

Though donations can be made by relatives of the cancer patient, about 70 percent of bone marrow transplants are made through national registries or are donated by anonymous strangers.

“When you register, you send in a cheek swab sample,” Table volunteer Sarah Leverett said. “They put you on the registry, and when they find a match, they give you a call. You’re on the registry until you’re 60, so you can be called any time.”

The marrow is generally harvested through a four to six hour blood donation, or a one-hour surgical procedure. Delete Blood Cancer covers all testing and donation costs, and encourages donations to help cover expenses.

Currently, over 700,000 people are registered, and nearly 2,500 donations have been made through the registry.

“We thought it was a good cause,” Fugal said. “We really wanted to help out.”

“Bone Marrow matches are very specific,” says Leverett. “So they try and get as many people to sign up as they can. Though there is a time commitment, for people who need the marrow, there’s no other way.”

The Delete Blood Cancer table will be running on Thursday from 10-2 in the Pharmacy Building atrium, and from 1-6 on April 5th in the Homer Babbidge Library lobby.  


Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu.