Family of Cancer Patient With Chinese, Thai and Italian Heritage is Trying to Find Stem Cell Donor
The family of a young cancer patient is on a worldwide search for a rare stem cell donor.
Lara Casalotti, 24, went to the doctor last year, thinking she had pulled a muscle in her back. Instead, a week before Christmas, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and, unless she finds a stem cell transplant, she has just weeks to live.
But that is proving tough so far; Lara has Chinese, Thai and Italian heritage and her donor will likely have to be the same ethnicity. She has learned that her only brother is not a match.
People of mixed race make up just three percent of the worldwide registry and ethnic minorities are also under-represented. So in a bid to find her a donor, Lara's family have launched the Match4Lara campaign.
"We wanted to reach as many people as possible," her aunt, Sujitpan Lamsam, told INSIDE EDITION. "We need everyone of mixed race and ethnic minorities to step up and join the registry."
She added: "Lara has always been socially conscious, working with refugees, at risk youth and migrant workers. She says that perhaps getting leukemia and creating this worldwide awareness is part of her purpose in life."
And she's definitely having an impact. In the week the campaign came out, 3,000 people registered in the U.K. alone, Sujitpan said.
In an interview with the BBC, Lara said she couldn't believe the response.
"It’s so touching having messages from people I don’t know who are reaching out and giving their support or sharing personal experiences," she said. "It's a time when you think it restores your faith in humanity."
Her aunt said they were so grateful to celebrities including J.K. Rowling and Stephen Fry, who have tweeted on Lara's behalf. Other people have also shown incredible support, such as a stranger who took an eight-hour bus ride from Chiangmai to Bangkok to donate his stems cells.
But doctors have not yet found a match.
Lara is receiving treatment at London’s University College Hospital. She has just finished her first round of chemo but might need three more.
"She will need a stem cell transplant in the April timeframe to save her life," her aunt said.
For more information on how to register, visit Match4Lara.com.