Be The Match: Diversity in bone marrow transplant donors could save more lives

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Andrew Garcia is earning his associate degree and has big dreams.

“I plan to become a physical therapist’s assistant,“ he said Wednesday.

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The 22-year-old’s plan was put on hold last year, when he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome.

It causes bone marrow failure.

Garcia explained, “I’m getting started on my life and now it feels like my life is ending.”

According to Dr. James Foran with Mayo Clinic, a bone marrow transplant is the only cure.

He said, “The problem is, if there are mismatches from the donor to the recipient, then you can get rejection.”

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Dr. Foran told Action News Jax reporter Beth Rousseau that 30% of patients have a family match, but the rest need donors.

“We need more diversity in the registry because it’s easier for some populations like Caucasians to find a match, but we need help in other ethnicities and other races, “ he said.

Research from the National Marrow Donor Program shows the chances of finding an adult match on the registry by patient ethnicity:

  • 77 percent for Caucasians
  • 57 percent for American Indians or Alaska Natives
  • 46 percent for Hispanics or Latinos
  • 41 percent for Asians or Pacific Islanders
  • 23 percent for African Americans

Garcia described what it was like hearing his Hispanic heritage could impact his chances of finding a donor.

He said, “I went through a period of ‘Oh my God, am I even going to be able to get a donor?’ just because of my ethnicity.”

Garcia found his perfect match in November.

Now, he’s in remission.

He said, “I just feel like it's given me such a wonderful opportunity to live out my life.”

Mayo Clinic is holding a drive, pushing for more bone marrow donors.

Here are some ways to join: