Shelley Eaves

Swab Mob events target optimal stem cell donors

Last February, Shelley Eaves got the kind of news no one ever wants to hear: her cancer had returned.

Last February, Shelley Eaves got the kind of news no one ever wants to hear: after enduring chemotherapy for leukemia in 2010, her cancer had returned.

She now needs a stem cell transplant. Since none of Eaves’ siblings are a match, it’s up to Canadian Blood Services OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to find a donor within its database.

“I started doing some research and realized there’s such a huge need and a lot of the wrong type of donors on the database,” Eaves said.

About 90 per cent of donors are women. Of the 10 per cent of men donors, only four per cent are within the optimal 17 to 35 age group, which provides the best post-transplant outcomes.

Suitable matches are also most likely found within a shared ethnic background, yet currently 75 per cent of all donors are caucasian. There is a strong need for young, diverse, male donors.

“We’re really reaching out to any ethnic community, whether it’s Asian, Southeast Asian, First Nations … the best chance of a match comes from within your own genetic ethnic group. There’s a need from within those communities.”

Eaves’ employer, Royal Bank of Canada, for which the 58-year-old works as a community development manager, got behind the cause, along with the University of Victoria.

The two groups will host OneMatch “Swab Mob” donor registration drive events aimed at attracting optimal donors. Registration takes about 20 minutes and requires getting a cheek swabbed.

Swab Mobs are set for Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at The Atrium, 800 Yates St. and Nov. 16 from 5:30 until 9 p.m. at UVic’s McKinnon Gym.

The UVic Vikes men’s and women’s basketball teams have joined the campaign to register optimal stem cell donors to make OneMatch more reflective of Canada’s population.

“We understand the need to identify as many healthy young adult donors as possible and we are happy to support both OneMatch and RBC in helping increase the number of donors,” said Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes athletics and recreation.

Nearly 1,000 Canadians are waiting for a stem cell donor.

“It takes time,” Eaves said of her own wait for a donor. “It’s very normal for it to take six months and many people wait much, much longer to find one.”

See onematch.ca for more information.

nnorth@saanichnews.com