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Stratford university's quest to save life of lecturer's daughter

PUBLISHED: 16:32 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 17:38 22 January 2016

Lara Casalotti needs a life-saving transplant

Lara Casalotti needs a life-saving transplant

Archant

A campaign to save the life of a University of East London lecturer's daughter has seen scores of student sign up to the bone marrow register.

Sarah Rogers, the regional register development manager for the Anthony Nolan Trust speaking to student and prospective donor Amy LandersSarah Rogers, the regional register development manager for the Anthony Nolan Trust speaking to student and prospective donor Amy Landers

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

She requires a lifesaving stem cell transplant, but her only brother, Seb, was not a compatible donor.

“We were told her brother had a one in four chance of being a match,” explained Dr Casalotti.

“For other people, it’s one in thousands.”

Lara's father, Dr Stefano Casalotti, with student volunteer Kerry Lawrence and a testing kitLara's father, Dr Stefano Casalotti, with student volunteer Kerry Lawrence and a testing kit

The search for a suitable donor for Lara is complicated by her heritage.

Her father is Italian while her mother, Supanya Lamsam, is from Thailand.

People from minority ethnic and mixed race backgrounds are massively underrepresented on the bone marrow register.

The search for a donor for Lara has gone viral on social media, being picked up by celebrities including actor Stephen Fry and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling

Fatima Harrigan gives a spit sample to see if she could be a match for LaraFatima Harrigan gives a spit sample to see if she could be a match for Lara

“You don’t know how many people are sharing it but then not actually signing up,” said Dr Casalotti, who is on the bone marrow register himself.

“Lara’s diagnosis was a shock as it’s a very serious disease.

“She’s at University College London Hospital waiting for chemotherapy.

“She was taking a masters in migration studies at UCL but that’s been put on hold for now.”

Lara spent Chrismas being treated in hospitalLara spent Chrismas being treated in hospital

Today’s drive – one of two taking place at the university – saw prospective donors of all different backgrounds sign up.

Student volunteers from the marrow society joined representatives from the Anthony Nolan trust in spreading the word and signing people up to the register – a process that requires a form to be filled out and a spit sample taken.

Among those to join was 21-year-old sociology student Fatima Harrigan.

“You never know if you or someone in your family is going to need it one day, and I’d want people to sign up then,” she said.

Students wait to be tested to see if they could be a bone marrow donor for Lara CasalottiStudents wait to be tested to see if they could be a bone marrow donor for Lara Casalotti

“It’s not a bad thing to join the register and maybe save someone’s life.”

Peter Carr, the president of the university’s marrow society, said he was moved by Lara’s story and the response by his fellow students.

“She’s only 24, and she was diagnosed just before Christmas, it really broke my heart,” said the 31-year-old.

“I’d love UEL to find a match for her. We’ve had more people turn up than at any of our previous registration events.”

The third year biomedical science student has Dr Casalotti as one of his lecturers, and while he isn’t a compatible donor for Lara, he is hopeful one day he will be someone’s match.

“Some people want to win the lottery or something like that,” he said. “I would love to save someone’s life.”

A second drive will be held at UEL’s Stratford campus on Friday next week between 9am and 6pm.

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