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Lion King child star dies of cancer

An 11-year-old who starred on Broadway in The Lion King and whose battle with leukaemia won the hearts of many, including Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent, has died.

Shannon Tavarez died on Monday in hospital in New York.

Shannon, who played the young lion Nala, had received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in August. The procedure was performed as an alternative to a bone marrow transplant after doctors said that a perfect bone marrow match could not be found.

The search was difficult because Shannon's mother is African-American and her father is from the Dominican Republic. For bone marrow transplants, minorities and those of mixed ancestry have a more difficult time finding good matches because there are not as many people from those groups signed up as potential donors.

Shannon was forced to quit the show in April. She beat hundreds of other hopefuls last year to earn her spot playing Nala, the childhood pal and girlfriend of Simba, hero of The Lion King. She split the role with another girl, performing four shows a week for six months.

Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent campaigned to help find a bone marrow donor, and cast members held bone marrow donor registration drives.

Child performers from The Lion King and other shows also sold bracelets and key chains that read, Shine for Shannon, to raise money to help pay for her medical bills.

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