May 24, 2024

Leo Rabanillo Kent, a 15-month-old child with x-linked hyper IgM syndrome, is in dire need of a stem cell donor match. Photo courtesy of the Kent Family.

April 16, 2024 – The Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with the Lapu-Lapu Day block party in Vancouver slated for April 27, will engage with attendees, explain the critical need for a diverse stem cell registry and show how a simple swab can make a huge difference in saving lives.

Adrienne San Juan of the Canadian Blood Services shared that “only 33 percent of Canada’s stem cell registry is non-Caucasian with only one percent being comprised of Filipino donors.” 

This makes it harder for Filipino patients to find a match and which is why the organization is “encouraging individuals between the ages of 17 and 35 to join the stem cell registry in the hopes of being someone’s life-saving match.”

According to Canadian Blood Services, patients are more likely to find a matching donor among those within their ethnic ancestry, noting that “only 25 percent of people find a stem cell within their own family.” A patient of Asian descent is 3.8 times less likely to find a match unrelated donor than someone who is white.

The likelihood of finding a match for a white patient is 79 percent but drops dramatically to as low as 29 percent for persons of colour, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. Cells from younger donors in the 17 to 35 age group lead to better long-term survival for patients after transplant.

The swab process is simple, quick and non-invasive but can be lifesaving for individuals like Leo Rabanillo Kent, a 15-month old of mixed Caucasian-Filipino descent who is in dire need of a stem cell match. 

Leo’s mother Ro-Ann Rabanillo Kent shared in a media release, “As parents facing the daunting reality of our child, Leo, being diagnosed with x-linked hyper IgM syndrome, our hearts are heavy with the longing for a cure. Every day, we cling to the hope of finding a stem cell donor match that could be Leo’s lifeline.” Ro-Ann added, “Your decision to register and commit as a donor not only fills us with hope but also brings us closer to realizing that crucial match.”

The Lapu-Lapu block party is being organized by Filipino BC, in partnership with the Sunset on Fraser Business Association in South Vancouver.

Filipino BC’s RJ Aquino noted that the block party provides “an opportunity to give back to the communities we’re a part of. We know that there is a concerning lack of diversity in the stem cell registry, which means if you are Filipino or ethnically diverse, your odds of finding a live saving match are low. Having a registry as diverse as Canada is critical to ensuring that we achieve equity in our health care system.”

About the Author
Rachel Ramos-Reid started writing for magazines and newspapers when she was still a junior at the University of the Philippines’ Communication degree program majoring in Journalism. She continued to write in a public relations/corporate communications capacity in various private and government offices until moving out of the country in 1997 to work as Programme Officer for the arts and culture branch of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO-SPAFA) in Bangkok, Thailand. At the end of her term, Rachel found herself immigrating to Canada in the year 2000 and again searching for new beginnings. Currently she is the Executive Assistant to a small rural college on Vancouver Island.

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