Bone marrow match found for Stratford University lecturer’s daughter

Lara spent Chrismas being treated in hospital

Lara spent Chrismas being treated in hospital - Credit: Archant

Against all odds a bone marrow match has been found for the daughter of a lecturer from the University of East London.

Dr Stefano Casalotti’s 24-year-old daughter Lara was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukaemia just before Christmas.

She was told during a trip to Thailand that her best hope of a cure was a stem cell transplant, but her mixed race heritage – her mother is Thai and her father Italian – meant that finding a compatible donor would be difficult.

Her family launched a global campaign to help the student find a match, with the search attracting interest from big names like Harry Potter author JK Rowling and actor Stephen Fry.

The University of East London put on two donor drives to help find a match and sign more students up to the bone marrow register.

The donor’s identity will be kept a secret due to confidentiality regulations but it is hoped they will donate their stem cells in March.

Lara, who is studying for a masters in global migration at University College London, said: “These past months have been a whirlwind but I am so thankful a donor with a genetic match has now been found.

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“Thanks to everyone’s immense support, I have always stayed hopeful that I would find one, but I realise how lucky I have been given how difficult it was to find that donor.

“I want to keep urging people to sign up to the donor registries so that everyone can have a chance of finding their match.”

Her brother, Seb, 20, said: “We’ve been so lucky in finding a match but we know that others are not so fortunate.

“The Match4Lara events planned around the world over the coming weeks will go ahead as planned, so that other families can one day receive the same good news.

“This campaign was hatched around the dinner table and we never expected it to receive such incredible support.

“We were inspired by the Match4Aary campaign, who is still waiting for a match, so we need people to keep signing up to registries worldwide.”

Lara’s mother, Supanya, said: “As a mum, I feel pure relief as we knew the odds were stacked against Lara.

“Whoever the donor is, they will never, ever know how grateful I am. The transplant is still a few weeks away and I wish I could wrap them in cotton wool to keep them safe.

“We know we have a long road ahead as a transplant is an extremely serious procedure, but knowing there is a good match for Lara is a weight off our shoulders that we desperately needed.”

The family, who live in Hampstead, estimates that more than 20,000 people worldwide have joined a register as a result of the campaign.

Anthony Nolan also saw an unprecedented spike in new donors from black, Asian, ethnic minority and mixed race backgrounds in the UK.

Ann O’Leary, head of register development at Anthony Nolan, said: “We’re over the moon that we’ve been able to find a suitable donor for Lara and that she’s now able to begin her transplant journey.

“We’re so grateful to Lara and all of her incredible supporters for spreading the word about the simple but vital act of donating stem cells. By diversifying the donor register, they have given hope to so many other people from ethnic minority and mixed race communities.”