Desperate race against time: Cancer patient Pete McCleave's campaign to boost stem cell register

Peter McCleave is in a race against time to save his own life.

Diagnosed back in 2017 with myeloma - a form of blood cancer - he was given seven years to live - unless he can find a stem cell donor.

The problem is, only 4% of the global population are signed up to be stem cell donors. In the UK that number is just 2%.

The Dad of two from Cheshire started a campaign, 10,000 donors, in 2018 to get more people onto the donor register.

So far, that campaign has encouraged 85,000 people to sign up to the register.

And it has helped find matches for 16 people. That's 16 lives that have been saved, thanks to Peter. But he is still desperately waiting for a match himself.

Mel Barham speaks to Peter McCleave in the latest From the North podcast.

Credit: ITV

As he says, he's now at the sticky end of his diagnosis. Time is running out.

Peter added: "We all have a genetic twin out there - some more than one. That I'm a bit of a genetic mongrel makes things a bit more difficult.

"The chances of me finding that match is quite scant but doing nothing is not going to improve the odds for anybody."

I first met Pete back in 2019, and have followed his journey ever since.

As part of Blood cancer awareness month, we caught up again to record a podcast for ITV's 'From the North' to talk all about his campaign and his race against time to find a match for himself and the thousands of others like him.

Pete McCleave talking to ITV's Mel Barham for the podcast 'From the North' Credit: ITV

Donating stem cells is very similar to giving blood, if you're 18-55 you may be able to register - it takes just five minutes and all you have to do is provide a cheek swab in the post.

You can sign up to the register HERE

Pete says it's a numbers game. The more people who sign up onto the stem cell donor register, the more chance he and the thousands like him, could have their lives saved.

But very few people from diverse backgrounds are on the register which is making things harder for Peter with his unusual Chinese and Portuguese heritage.

As part of Blood cancer awareness month, he's hoping to encourage more people to sign up and potentially save a life.

He's also taking part in a wing walk later this month as part of the awareness campaign. You can find more details about that here


  • How do you donate stem cells and does it hurt?

In about 90 percent of the cases the stem cells are taken from the bloodstream - just like giving blood. The donation takes 3-5 hours on one or two consecutive days. No surgery is necessary, you can usually leave the clinic the same day.

  • Am I missing stem cells after the donation?

The body reproduces the blood stem cells within about two weeks. The procedure of donating them is comparable to a blood donation, and does not lead to a permanent loss of stem cells.

  • Who can donate?

If you are aged between 17 and 55 years and in general good health, then you may be able to register as a blood stem cell donor. If you register when you are 17, you will not be able to donate blood stem cells yet, but on your 18th birthday, you will automatically be activated in our database and included in the global donor searches.

There is much more information on stem cell donation on the DKMS website here

Find out more about Peter's campaign and how to sign up to the stem cell donor register here