Student’s plea for bone marrow transplant sparks “overwhelming” response

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe

A campaign to find a bone marrow donor for a young leukaemia victim has sparked one of the biggest searches of its kind.

The hunt to find a donor for Lara Casalotti, a 24-year-old student and human rights campaigner from London, has so far seen an unprecedented five-fold increase in people registering with the cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

Casalotti needs a life-saving transplant by April and, since the #match4lara campaign launched just 12 days ago, over 6,700 people have signed up to the charity's register in the hope of helping find a match.

Lara Casalotti

Lara Casalotti needs a stem cell transplant by April

Casalotti, who is half Thai and half Italian, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia just before Christmas last year after experiencing back pain and shortness of breath. Her family and friends started the campaign to find her a donor after discovering that her brother, Seb, was not a match.

She needs a stem cell transplant but has a rare tissue type due to her heritage. Mixed race donors make up just three per cent of the global register, meaning it is extremely difficult to find a suitable match for both Casalotti and others in her situation.

Since the donor drive began, celebrities including JK Rowling and Stephen Fry have been taking to Twitter to lend their support to the cause.

Casalotti says, "The support has been overwhelming, I hope the campaign will not only increase awareness but save hundreds of lives, it is so important that everyone signs up. People often aren’t aware how easy it is." 

Her family and friends have also been actively campaigning to both find her a match and help diversify the donor registry. 

Imogen Beecroft, a school friend of Casalotti who took part in an action day last weekend to help boost the campaign, tells, "The response has been overwhelming and, as Lara has said, really is bringing out the best in humanity. There's a video of a man named Jed who spent 8 hours on a bus to travel to Bangkok from his hometown to donate when he heard that he and Lara shared the same Thai/Italian heritage. 

If enough people sign up and send off their spit kits, we're hoping the campaign will be able to make a real difference - both for Lara and for all the other people struggling to find a donor."

You can watch the family's appeal below and sign up to the register with a quick and easy spit test here. If you are a match for someone, the donation will most likely be a simple outpatient procedure similar to a blood donation.