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Bridging the Diversity Gap through Groundbreaking Transplant Options




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Expanding donor options for transplant at Fred Hutch

Blood stem cell transplantation, a therapy pioneered at Fred Hutch, is a potentially lifesaving procedure for many individuals with certain cancers or other diseases that affect the blood and immune systems.

But not every patient will find a match. Filippo Milano, MD, PhD, and his team are working to change that by exploring alternative transplant options. Your support can help them extend the life-giving benefits of a transplant to more people in our community and around the world.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center is an independent, nonprofit organization that also serves as the cancer program for UW Medicine. Fred Hutch is proud to raise funds that fuel the adult oncology program on behalf of both Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.

Disparities in finding a match

The blood-forming stem cells used in transplants are typically collected from donor blood or bone marrow. However, both of these methods require a high degree of matching between the donor and the transplant recipient. Not all patients will find a match from their family or a bone marrow registry — a situation that occurs more frequently in the U.S. for people belonging to ethnical minorities.

According to Be The Match, the nation’s largest bone marrow registry, the chance of finding an unrelated matched donor is approximately:

  • 29% for Black and African American people.
  • 47% for Asian and Pacific Islander people.
  • 48% for Latino or Hispanic people.
  • 60% for Native American people.
  • 79% for white people.

Bone marrow registries are taking concerted steps to attract more diverse donors, but the odds continue to remain stacked against people of color.

Expanding access with alternative methods

Dr. Milano, a physician-scientist who specializes in transplantation at Fred Hutch and UW Medicine, is working to improve access to potentially lifesaving blood stem cell transplants. He and his team study alternative methods for patients who lack conventional donors.

Their research is focused on two innovative sources for blood stem cell transplants: 

  • Cord blood, which comes from umbilical cords that are donated after a baby is born (and would otherwise be discarded). Cord blood can be banked so it is ready to use when a patient needs a transplant. Learn more about the Cord Blood Transplant Program at Fred Hutch.
  • Haploidentical donors — or half-matches — are close relatives, like a parent or child. New techniques help overcome the challenges to the immune system when a match is not perfect. 

Expanding transplant options to include cord blood and haploidentical matches gives patients more equitable access to this vital treatment. In fact, more than 40% of the 600 patients who have enrolled in alternative transplantation clinical trials are from groups that are underrepresented in bone marrow registries.

Cord blood and haploidentical donors for stem cell transplants will be increasingly important as the diversity of our population increases, offering the hope of a cure for more patients.

Make your difference

Your generous support for alternative transplant research at Fred Hutch gives Dr. Milano and his team the flexible resources they need for everything from hiring and training staff to collecting and storing cord blood. Philanthropic funding is often the only way to cover expenses like these, which are vital to this team’s research. Watch this video to learn more about how private support makes a difference for Dr. Milano’s team.

Join us in propelling this exciting research and advancing standards of care for everyone in our community.

“Our work at the Hutch has had a tremendous impact within our community. I would like to continue providing opportunities to all patients in need and with limited therapeutic options. Your support with donations is crucial to continue our mission.”

- Filippo Milano, MD, PhD, hematologist and researcher, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine 

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