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How to Become a Bone Marrow and Stem Cells Donor

  • Joining the Be The Match Registry® of the National Marrow Donor Program

    When you join the Be The Match registry, you volunteer to be listed on the registry as a potential blood stem cell donor. This means you are ready to donate your stem cells and are ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant. YOU could be someone’s cure. YOU could save a life.

    To join the registry, you must be:

    • 18 to 44 years old
    • Willing to donate to any patient in need
    • Able to meet certain health guidelines

    How to join:

    The process to become a registry member is simple, involving swabbing the inside of your cheek to collect a sample of your cells.

    If you are between the ages of 18-44, you can:

    • Text to join: Text danafarber21 to 61474
      • A link will be sent to your phone
      • Follow link, and complete the digital consent
      • A cheek swab will be mailed to the mailing address provided in consent. It may take 4-7 business days to receive swab kit.
      • Follow instructions and send the swab kit back in the envelope provided.
    • Join at a live event (events currently postponed due to COVID-19)

    Everyone on the registry is critical to saving lives. Your commitment can mean the difference between life and death for a patient who needs a donor.

    Email nmdpdonor@dfci.harvard.edu for more information.

    Dana-Farber's donor center is a fully accredited member of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). The NMDP has facilitated more than 35,000 marrow or blood stem cell transplants for patients who do not have matching donors in their families.

    The NMDP at Dana-Farber supports unrelated, volunteer stem cell donors as well as patients and families facing stem cell transplantation. We:

    • Recruit potential donors
    • Educate donors about the registration and donation process
    • Advocate for the donor's best interests throughout the recruitment, matching, and donation processes
    • Work diligently to retain potential donors with the NDMP registry
    • Build a strong network and inventory of cord blood units for transplant
  • Donate for a family member

    When a patient undergoes an allogeneic transplant, the healthy stem cells used in transplantation are donated from another person.

    This donor is selected on the basis of how well his or her Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matches that of the patient.

    Your HLA type is inherited from your parents: one half from your mother and one half from your father. Just as you and your siblings may have inherited similar features, such as hair or eye color, you may also have inherited the same HLA type. The likelihood of finding an HLA match with a family member is approximately 25 to 30 percent.

    The first step in searching for a donor for a patient is for family members of the patient to get HLA typed. The patient’s doctor will let the patient know which family members should be HLA typed and when this should happen.

    To do this, we will begin with a cheek swab to collect a tissue sample to analyze. It may also be done by taking a sample of blood. Typing includes:

    • Serological typing, which is a broad definition of your bone marrow type;
    • Then, more specific typing is done using a DNA method

    Your bone marrow "type" is designated by a series of 10 alpha-numeric combinations. There are millions of possible combinations.

    If you are found to be an HLA match for your family member, you will begin the process to become a donor. A donor coordinator from our team will work with you throughout the process, which includes:

    • Medical testing to ensure it is safe for you to donate
    • Consent
    • Donation
    • Follow-up

    Our donor coordinators will also work with you to ensure you understand the commitment you are making as a donor, helping you locate resources including access to a pharmacy, psychosocial services, and other important programs.

    If a family member is not a match for the patient, then a search will be performed to find an unrelated, volunteer donor.

    If you were tested for a family member and not found to be a match, you may wish to join the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Be The Match Registry, which is the largest, most diverse volunteer donor registry in the world. You will need to complete a consent form and obtain a copy of your HLA typing. To learn more about becoming a member of the Be The Match Registry, call Donor Services at 866-875-3324.

  • Save a life: Join the Be The Match Registry
    Dr. Joseph Antin, chief, Stem Cell Transplantation Program and Cindy Albert, manager, Transplant Donor Services, share the importance of joining the Be The Match Registry of the National Marrow Donor Program.