Documentary highlights need for marrow donors

October 4, 2017

By Meaghan Flores

A new documentary film is shedding light on the need for more people of diverse and mixed-race origins to sign up for the bone marrow donor registry.

Jeff Chiba Stearns’ film, Mixed Match, has been shown at multiple film festivals after making its debut at the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival.

Mixed Match follows the stories of five people trying to find life-saving bone marrow donations. Their searches have been unsuccessful because of their ethnically diverse backgrounds.

To have a successful stem cell transplant, the donor and patient must have closely matched HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genetic markers. For some patients with multiple ethnic backgrounds, this can be a one-in-a-million shot.

One of the cases he follows is a boy named Hunter Thawley, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was only 14 months old. His African-American, Native American, Korean and Caucasian ethnic mix makes it extremely hard for him to find a donor.

The purpose of the documentary is to bring awareness to patients like Hunter and get more multiethnic people to sign up to be on the registry.

The GenCure Marrow Donor Program, which is affiliated with the Be The Match national donor registry, is one of the top organizations working to diversify the donor database. GenCure is the largest registrant of Hispanic donors in the United States, and it also adds a large number of mixed-origin donors every year.

The documentary is part of the Mixed Match Project and features Athena Asklipiadis, the founder of Mixed Marrow, an organization that works to find donors of multi-ethnic descent.

Meaghan Flores is a student at Texas State University.