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Lara Casalotti: Stem cell donor found for mixed-race Leukaemia sufferer

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Media captionLara Casalotti revealed the news of a donor match in a You Tube video

A student who was diagnosed with leukaemia has found a stem cell donor after a celebrity-backed viral campaign inspired thousands to donate.

Lara Casalotti, from Hampstead, needs a stem cell transplant but her "unique" Thai and Italian heritage meant a mixed-race donor was needed.

Just 3% of worldwide stem cell donors on the register are mixed-race.

Charity Anthony Nolan searched in Italy, Thailand and the US to find a match with a similar ethnic background.

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Image copyright Lara Casalotti
Image caption It is hoped the donor, who remains anonymous, will donate their stem cells in March.

Lara, 24, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer before Christmas. She said the past few months had been a "whirlwind" but she was "so thankful" a donor with a genetic match had now been found.

"I have always stayed hopeful that I would find one, but I realise how lucky I have been given how difficult it was to find that donor," she said.

A campaign to find a donor, called Match4Lara, has gained global attention and led to a sharp rise in the number of people signing up as donors.

Celebrities including Stephen Fry and JK Rowling have also given their support.

Image copyright Match4Lara
Image caption The 24-year-old student was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in December

The Anthony Nolan charity saw an "unprecedented spike" of new donors from black, Asian, ethnic minority or mixed race (BAME) backgrounds in the UK.

Ann O'Leary, of Anthony Nolan, said: "The life-changing impact of the Match4Lara campaign will be seen for years to come, as any one of the thousands of people they have signed up could save the life of someone like Lara in the future."

Lara, who is studying for a Masters in global migration at University College London, has urged people to sign up to the donor registry so "everyone could find a match".

Lara's mother, Supanya, said: "As a mum, I feel pure relief as we knew the odds were stacked against Lara.

"Whoever the donor is, they will never, ever know how grateful I am."

It is hoped the donor, who remains anonymous, will donate their stem cells in March.

Image copyright Match4Lara
Image caption Lara Casalotti faced a "needle in a haystack search" to find a mixed race donor for a life saving operation

Why do people need stem cell donors?

There are lots of types of blood cancers and disorders which affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system, including Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

A stem cell transplant can cure or improve the outcome for someone with blood cancer or blood disorder

When a person has a blood cancer or blood disorder, their blood cells have stopped working in their normal way. That means they cannot do vital things like fight infection or carry oxygen.

A transplant of blood stem cells from a healthy person can replace and repair these damaged cells - and hopefully cure their disease.

There is a shortage of people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds on the Anthony Nolan register

Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, but this drops to around 20% of transplant recipients who are from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background.

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