Why Aboriginal Peoples Need to Join OneMatch

Jennifer Philippe
Director OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

Thursday, October 22, 2009
from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 220 Laurier Avenue West, Ste. 1400, Ottawa, ON

There is an immediate need to increase ethnic representation so that Aboriginal patients can have a second chance at life by finding a matching stem cell donor.

Today, Canada’s stem cell database is 82 per cent Caucasian, and 18 percent non-Caucasian. Aboriginal Peoples, as non-Caucasian, have an even lower representation on Canada’s stem cell network at just under one percent (.9%).

There are contributing factors when searching for an unrelated stem cell donor but diversity is critical, especially as Canada’s population has reported an Aboriginal identity surpassing the one million-mark in 2006.* This population growth is not mirrored when looking at the participation numbers around Aboriginal Peoples when registering to be potential stem cell donors. Unfortunately, only 2,200 registrants of Aboriginal heritage are listed on Canada’s national stem cell database. This is hard news for the four (4) patients currently waiting for a stem cell transplant; as they continue to suffer through their potentially life threatening illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma or other genetic disorders.

This can change.

Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network works together with Canadian Transplant Centres and registries around the world to help patients get the stem cells they need to survive. Aboriginal Peoples need to work with OneMatch by providing more potential stem cell donors to Canada’s network.

Anyone between the ages of 17 and 50, in good general health can register to become a potential stem cell donor. There is no cost to join. By completing a consent form and using a cheek swab to be tested, they can give hope to a patient waiting to find a matching donor. An overview of the OneMatch program will be presented, with the objective of creating awareness of the need for more Aboriginal registrants.

* Sources: Statistics Canada, censuses of population, 1901 to 2006

A nurse by trade, Jennifer Philippe has had many years experience in the acute health care setting, nursing education and transfusion medicine. Jennifer has been with Canadian Blood Services for fifteen years and is currently the Director of the OneMatch Stem Cell Marrow Network. OneMatch is responsible for performing donor searches, and coordinating collection activities on behalf of the over 800 Canadian patients today who are in need of stem cell transplants.