World appeal for mixed-race blood cancer woman who needs stem cell transplant
The family of a mixed-race woman desperate for a life-saving stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with blood cancer has launched a global appeal to find a donor.
Lara Casalotti, from Hampstead, north London, has yet to find a bone marrow donor to match her mixed Italian and Thai heritage.
The 24-year-old student and charity campaigner was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a quickly developing disease most common in people over 65, in December. She was working in Thailand and initially believed she had pulled a muscle in her back.
Miss Casalotti, who speaks five languages and is studying global migration at UCL, volunteers with young refugees and has previously worked at the UN.
Her family have launched the #Match4lara appeal in order to find a match and to increase awareness after discovering there is a lack of donors for ethnic minorities.
There is a severe shortage of ethnic minority donors on the Anthony Nolan register in the UK. According to figures only 20% of people from black, Asian and ethnic minorities who need a stem cell transplant will find a match.
The campaign has already attracted an increase in the number of donors, and the Match4Lara Facebook page has nearly 4,000 likes.
Miss Casalotti said: "I really can't express how grateful and touched I am by everyone who has helped raise awareness and has signed up to bone marrow registries in response to the campaign."
Her brother Seb, a 20-year-old medical student at Cambridge, said: "She wants to turn this into something positive for other people who are struggling to find donors by getting more people from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds to join a stem cell donor register."
Lara is being treated at London's University College Hospital. Her brother was found not to be a match.
Mr Casalotti said: "We've got to think as a community. There's no room for the attitude of only helping your own.
"There's no time to put this off or think 'I'll do it next week'. That could be too late for Lara. Please do it today."
Ann O'Leary, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, described Lara as "a truly inspirational and selfless young woman" adding that "somewhere out there, there's a potential lifesaver who could give her a lifeline."
Joining the Anthony Nolan register involves filling in a form and providing a saliva sample. Those who go on to donate usually do so via an outpatient appointment similar to donating blood - debunking the myth that donation is traumatic or painful.
People aged 16 to 30 can join the Anthony Nolan register at www.anthonynolan.org.
For more information on the campaign visit http://www.match4lara.com/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgnFZjqQ8Cw.