Early last month, 24-year-old Lara Casalotti, a master's student in London, began noticing pain in her back and shortness of breath during her runs. A blood test during a visit to a doctor revealed a cause she never expected: Acute myeloid leukemia, a rare, aggressive, and potentially fatal cancer, in which the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells or platelets. To survive, she needs a bone marrow transplant donor by April. That's where things get tricky. Casalotti is Chinese, Thai, and Italian. According to Mixed Marrow, an organization dedicated to finding multiracial bone marrow and blood cell donors, only about 3% of international bone marrow donors identify as mixed-race — making it difficult for patients such as Casalotti to find lifesaving genetic matches. (White patients are by far the likeliest to find matches.) That's why her family has launched the #match4lara campaign: to search for a donor for her, and to encourage people, especially those who are mixed-race or members of racial minorities, to register as potential donors.
All of us in Lara's family wanted so badly to be the match. Now this is a numbers game.
"All of us in [Lara's] family wanted so badly to be the match. I must have hit the refresh button a hundred times on the online test results page, before finally getting my markers," Casalotti's cousin Nisha shared to the match4Lara website earlier this month. "They didn’t match. None of ours do. So now this is a numbers game. The chances of any one person being a match are tiny, but if we can mobilize thousands…hundreds of thousands…millions of people…then the odds don’t look so bad anymore." Since the campaign launched 11 days ago, some 6,700 people have signed up for the U.K.-based Anthony Nolan bone marrow donor registry, a dramatic increase from the 1,200 who signed up over the same period in 2015. The campaign has also attracted the attention of supporters from Mark Wahlberg to Mario Testino to J.K. Rowling:
As the number of people who identify as mixed-race grows, the need for mixed-race donors will only become more acute. To learn more about Casalotti's quest for a donor and how to sign up to become one, no matter your race, click through to her campaign's website.