Lawmakers Call for More Californians to Join the Bone Marrow Donation Registry

Monday, May 6, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Today the Assembly adopted Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 70, designating May 2019 as Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Month in California. The resolution, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), seeks to raise awareness about the need for more Californians to join the bone marrow donation registry.

 

Assemblymember Marc Berman with Norah Gratz-Lazarus (right) and Ellis Gratz-Lazarus (left). Photo credit: Assembly Democratic Caucus.

 

“Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer or other blood disorder,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “Patients in need of a bone marrow transplant rely on the selfless commitment of strangers for a cure. I joined the registry, and I hope many more Californians will join me in taking this essential step to save lives.”

Seventy percent of all patients who need a bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell, or cord blood transplant do not have a matched donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated donor or cord blood unit.

Be The Match operates the world’s largest and most diverse registry of potential bone marrow donors, including more than 20 million potential donors and 295,000 cord blood units. Since 1987, Be The Match has facilitated more than 92,000 marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants.

Unlike blood donation, patients seeking a bone marrow donor are more likely to match with someone who shares their ethnic background. Given the current composition of the Be The Match Registry, the likelihood of finding a match for a patient in need of a transplant ranges from 23 to 77 percent, depending on the patient’s ethnic background. In order to ensure that all patients have an equal chance of finding a match regardless of ethnic background, Be The Match has a specific need to increase awareness among African Americans, Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Native Americans, and other underrepresented ethnic groups.

ACR 70 was inspired by five-year-old Norah Gratz-Lazarus, who was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia —a gene disorder that is so rare that only an estimated 30 children in the United States are diagnosed with it each year. Without a matching bone marrow donor, Norah has more than a 90 percent risk of developing leukemia or other serious bone marrow diseases.

“Our family is grateful to have the strong support of the Assembly, our community, and countless Californians who have discovered how easy and necessary it is to sign up to be a potential donor,” said Zach Gratz-Lazarus, Norah’s father. “We urge all Californians to consider signing up for the registry because many lives—including that of my precious, young daughter—depend on finding the right match.”

Unfortunately, Norah’s family is hardly unique. California ranks first nationwide for patients searching for a match. Between 2013 and 2018, 6,335 California residents were in need of a life-saving donor.

The bone marrow donor registration process only takes a few minutes and requires a simple cheek swab. Join the Be The Match Registry today.

 

Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024