Macau (MNA) – Peter McCleave, a British man of Macanese descent and diagnosed with myeloma, has informed Macau News Agency (MNA) that he is searching for people with similar genetic background as possible stem cell donors.
Myeloma is a type of cancer that develops from cells in the bone marrow named plasma cells, with blood cell counts becoming lower and possibly damaging bones and making the body more prone to infections.
“Unless I can find someone to donate me their stem cells I’ve got about 7 years to live. Due to my Macanese heritage it is more likely I’ll find a match in that community. Donating is as simple as donating blood in 90 per cent of case per cent. So simple but life saving and for the donor, no long term side effects,” Peter McCleave told MNA.
McCleave stated that difficulties for finding a compatible match delve mainly into his genetic ancestry and the fact that only a small percentage of global population are registered stem cell donors.
According to the 40-year-old British man, his great-grandfather and great-grandmother from his mother’s side were Portuguese and Chinese, respectively, while his grandmother was raised in Macau and later married an Irish man.
One of the possible treatment procedures for the condition include high doses of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant, which can either be obtained from the patient itself or from a matching donor.
Stem cells are very early blood cells in the bone marrow that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
According to the University of Macau Faculty of Health Sciences cancer genetics researcher, Wang San Ming, the sole transplant of stem cells for medical treatment is currently only experimental and not formal practice, with stem cells transplants generally referring to bone marrow transplants.
The researcher indicated that it’s difficult to find a compatible bone marrow donor due to high rejection rates, with genotypes having to be similar and family relations not assuring compatibility.
“The larger population sample checked, the more chances there is to find a compatible donor. If [Mr. McCleave] is of Asian descent then an Asian donor would be more likely to be compatible,” Mr. Wang told MNA.
Mr. McCleave started a worldwide campaign for donor registration named 10,000 donors in which he indicates that there are approximately 30 million people on the stem cell register globally.
‘Unfortunately none are a match for me or thousands of other people like me. In the UK alone, only 2 per cent of the population are signed up to donate stem cells,’ he states in his campaign website.
The Macau Health Bureau (SS) has previously told MNA that currently no hospital in the city performs bone marrow/stem cell transplants or stem cell blood treatment.
Local health authorities have established a local Bone Marrow Donation registration system, connected to the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, which is in turn connected to international bone marrow registries.
According to SS, until September 2018, some 938 Macau residents were registered in the bone marrow/blood stem donors database, with only 34 Macau residents being considered compatible in preliminary tests – meaning they were compatible with patients requiring transplants.
Only two local matching donors have successfully completed bone marrow/blood stem cell transplants.
“The SS have to make the population aware of this issue, it’s similar to the blood donation, not everyone donates blood but if authorities explain how important it is to save people’s lives then people will be willing to donate,” Mr. Wang stated.