Match4Lara: They’ve found a stem cell donor

The Masters student’s family described it as ‘pure relief’

Lara Casalotti has found a stem cell donor.

The 24-year old UCL Masters student was diagnosed with leukaemia in December during a trip to Thailand. She was told her best hope of a cure was a stem cell transplant – but first she needed to find a donor. Because of Lara’s Thai-Italian heritage, she faced a “needle in a haystack” search, as only three per cent of the worldwide stem cell donor registers are mixed race.

Lara’s family and friends launched the global #Match4Lara appeal to appeal for more people from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds to sign up. It was one of the biggest campaigns of its kind – it went viral across the world and was backed by celebrities including JK Rowling, Stephen Fry, fashion photographer Mario Testino, Mark Wahlberg and the Prime Minister. 

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan searched the worldwide registers and has found someone whose tissue type matches Lara’s and who is able to donate. Their identity must be kept anonymous due to strict patient-donor confidentiality regulations. If all goes to plan, then they will donate stem cells in March.

Lara’s mother Supanya said she feels “pure relief”. “We knew that the odds were stacked against Lara. Whoever the donor is, they will never, ever know how grateful I am. The transplant is still a few weeks away and I wish I could wrap them in cotton wool to keep them safe. We know we have a long road ahead as a transplant is an extremely serious procedure, but knowing there is a good match for Lara is a weight off our shoulders that we desperately needed.”

The campaign has raised awareness of the need for stem cell donors. Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan reported a significant rise in new donors from black, Asian, ethnic minority or mixed race backgrounds in the UK.

“These past months have been a whirlwind,” Lara said, “but I am so thankful a donor with a genetic match has now been found. Thanks to everyone’s immense support, I have always stayed hopeful that I would find one, but I realise how lucky I have been, given how difficult it was to find that donor. I want to keep urging people to sign up to the donor registries so that everyone can have a chance of finding their match. Let’s find a Match4All.”


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