Gob for Good: Campaign launches to get more to sign up to stem cell register and save lives

Video report by Correspondent Mel Barham

A group of celebrities including Alesha Dixon, Trevor Nelson, Mark Bright and Marsha Thomason have joined together to encourage more people to sign up to the stem cell register and potentially save somebody's life.

The campaign entitled #GobForGood is calling for more people, especially those from diverse backgrounds, to join the stem cell register.

Blood cancer survival statistics are much lower for those in ethnic minority groups.

At the moment, if you're waiting for a stem cell transplant and you are from a minority ethnic background, you have about a 30% chance of finding a match, compared to 70% if you are white.

Pete McCleave and actress Marsha Thomason who is heading up the campaign Gob for Good Credit: Pete McCleave

Manchester actress Marsha Thomason is the face of the campaign here in the North West and said for her it was a "no brainer" to get involved.

She told ITV Granada Reports, "Like so many people, I didn't know anything about stem cell donatiom, blood cancer or any of it. I got the request, and before I responded, I did some research on the internet. I was kind of dumbfounded to learn how easy it is and how significant it can be and so to me, it was a no brainer, actually.

"That was one of the big reasons I wanted to get involved, just to raise awareness . Very simply, you can swab the inside of your mouth, get put on the registry, and you might have a genetic twin.

"We all have have a genetic twin somewhere in the world so you may be able to help them just by giving blood. I mean, it's so simple and what an honour to be able to help somebody's life in that way. So I'm telling everybody, I haven't even started on social media yet. I just I can't believe that something so simple could have such a significant effect on somebody's life.

"In the last few years, I've lost a number of people close to me to different kinds of cancer. If there was something that I could do or somebody else on the planet could do to help them that would be incredible.

"I'm really honoured to be part of it and the Northwest is where I'm from.  It's very important to me. It's important to Pete. And I'm thrilled to be able to. I just really hope people pay attention and register.

"I just feel it's such a very, very simple thing to be able to do, to have a significant effect on somebody's life. It could be the difference between life and death for somebody. Think about the people you love and about how you would feel if they needed this. Just register because you could just change somebody's a whole life."

Pete has the blood cancer Myeloma and needs a stem cell transplant

Pete McCleave has the blood cancer Myeloma and needs a stem cell transplant. He said "At the moment if you are white European you've got about a 70% chance of finding your match on the register today. Those odds plummet to at best, 30% to 37% if you are from a minority ethnic community.

"Really what we want to highlight here is what we can all do to help one another, but specifically engage with those groups of people who are really under-represented on the stem cell register because as a patient whose family hails from Southeast Asia, I'm still looking for that stem cell donor. It's more difficult because of my heritage and it shouldn't be that way. It doesn't need to be that way.

Marsha Thomason said she was a "no brainer" to get involved with the campaign after learning how easy it is to donate and save a life Credit: ITV Granada Reports

"Every 20 minutes someone somewhere is diagnosed with a blood cancer. The technology's there. We just need the stem cell donors to come forward. It really comes down to a life or death situation.

"Six years ago, I was given a seven year prognosis, which means potentially I may only have one more year left with my family. I know that my genetic twin is out in the world somewhere. I Just have to find them.

"That Keeps me focused on campaigns like 'Gob for Good' to keep banging the drum to raise awareness because ultimately it comes down to people doing something that can save someone's life. That's what we're trying to do. There shouldn't be health inequality."

Singer and TV presenter Alesha Dixon has also lent her support to the campaign.

“Reading about Pete’s journey, the diagnosis, his family, and the bid to get as many people as possible to sign up to the donor register (as I did), the campaign has my backing.

"I hope through my involvement in some way we can encourage greater numbers of stem cell donor sign ups and ultimately that Pete is able to find his matching stem cell donor. Come on people, we can do this!”

In about 90% 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.

If you want to find out more about the campaign #GobforGood and order a swab kit you can click here

The campaign is also raising money for two charities - DKMS and ACLT - as well as hoping to fund vital medical research into stem cells by Newcastle University.

Credit: Gob for Good campaign

Mel Barham speaks to Peter McCleave in the From the North podcast - search "The man who's saved 16 lives"