The family of UCL Masters student Lara Casalotti have spoken of their “pure relief” at finding a stem cell donor for the 24-year-old, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in December during a trip to Thailand.
London-born Lara, who has Chinese-Thai-Italian heritage, was told that her best hope of a cure was a stem cell transplant, which was no mean feat as, incredibly, only three percent of the world’s stem cell donor registers are mixed race.
Undeterred by the 1 in 25 million odds, Lara’s family and friends threw themselves into the #Match4Lara appeal, which raised awareness of the need for more people from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds to sign up to the register. It went viral across the world, with celebrity backing from the likes of Stephen Fry, J.K. Rowling, Mark Wahlberg and fashion photographer Mario Testino.
Today Lara shared a video on YouTube revealing some amazing news: a genetic match has been found for her and she can now prepare for her transplant.
The global registers were searched by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, who found a donor whose tissue type matches Lara’s. All being well, the donor (who must remain anonymous due to strict patient-donor confidentiality rules) will donate stem cells in March.
“It’s with such delight and relief that I can say that we have found a match for Lara!” wrote Lara’s brother Seb. “These past months have been such a whirlwind, but what has kept myself and my whole family so positive has been the amazing support we have received from every single person involved in the campaign.
“You have all been incredible: Everyone who has been so enthusiastic signing people up at a donor drives [sic], everyone who has spent a day shivering but still smiling holding a collection bucket, everyone who has designed a poster, made a video or come up with an ingenious hashtag, everyone who sent a a heartfelt message and comforted by sharing their experiences, everyone who made sure they told each and everyone of their mixed-race friends, everyone who nagged a celeb to tweet or even went knocking on their doors, anyone who fed me lines so I would say the right things in the interviews, anyone who just fed me at all to keep me happy, everyone who took an 8 hour bus ride to go to sign up, and of course everyone who spat!”
Thanks to #Match4Lara, Anthony Nolan has reported a significant rise in new donors from black, Asian, ethnic minority or mixed race backgrounds in the U.K. but it’s important to keep the momentum going, to spread awareness and, ultimately, save lives.
“I want to keep urging people to sign up to the donor registries so that everyone can have a chance of finding their match,” said Lara. “Let’s find a Match4All.”
Find out more about the campaign at match4lara.com.