Family speak of relief as Leukaemia sufferer finds rare stem cell donor

The family of a student diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia has spoken of their relief after a stem cell donor was found against the odds.

Lara Casalotti, 24, who is from Hampstead in north London, inspired a global campaign to find a match due to her mixed Thai and Italian heritage.

She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December during a trip to Thailand and told her best hope of a cure was a stem cell transplant.

She faced a "needle in a haystack" search because only 3% of worldwide stem cell donor registers have mixed race donors.

Lara's match would most likely come from someone with a similar ethnic background to herself.

Now, after a global search by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan - which included Thailand, the US and Italy - a match has been found.

The donor's identity has to be kept a secret due to patient-donor 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.

Lara

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.

Her brother Seb Casalotti told ITV News it would give the Lara and the family strength to tackle "the next stages".

Matching for stem cell or bone marrow donors is worked out based on tissue type and the genes inherited from both parents, in order to be successful 9/10 or 10/10 of the genes of the donor and recipient need to match as the higher match the more likely the chance of it working.

  • You can find out more about becoming a bone marrow donor at the Anthony Nolan website here.