Save a life by signing up: The critical role of donors in developing new cancer therapies

Cancer is poised to become the number one killer in the U.S., and hundreds of thousands of patients need people like you to participate in clinical research trials evaluating new treatment options. But you don’t have to be sick to be part of a clinical trial. In fact, many research trials need healthy participants to act as donors and the process is as safe and simple as getting your blood drawn.

Be the Match and save a life

One area of clinical research with a lot of promise in treating deadly diseases like blood cancer is called cell therapy. Cell therapies are designed to improve a patient’s ability to fight and even cure cancer by using healthy cells to “reset” the patient’s blood and immune system.

But for research to move forward and for these patients to be given another lease on life, it might require something unique — donor participation.

While some patients battling blood cancer can find a donor match among their family members, not everyone is so lucky. However, thanks to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), donor matches can also be found through NMDP’s Be The Match registry.

When you sign up for the registry, which requires only a simple cheek swab, the program will look for a patient who matches your specific genetic characteristics and is in desperate need of a donor. You may be the only person who matches a patient’s characteristics, meaning you may be the key to saving a stranger’s life.

While most examples of cell donations are for current procedures like a stem cell transplant, you can make a difference by donating to a patient participating in a clinical research trial evaluating new and potentially game-changing treatments for serious cancers.

“Understandably, many people may feel uncertain at first about donating to clinical trials because they’re not sure how their cells will be used,” said Dr. Steven Devine, Chief Medical Officer of NMDP. “However, a person who is identified as a match for someone participating in a trial could hold that person’s life in their hands. That’s why we need a diverse pool of donors to sign up and, importantly, to say ‘yes’ when they get the call that they are a match.”

A new way to treat blood cancers

Today, a stem cell transplant, sometimes referred to as a bone marrow transplant, is a patient’s best hope for a cure when facing a terminal blood cancer diagnosis. However, they also carry serious and even life-threatening treatment-related risks to the patient, including graft versus host disease, or GvHD. GvHD occurs when healthy blood cells from the donor attack organs of the recipient including the skin, mouth, eyes, liver, GI tract, and lungs. It is a significant burden on patients, and can keep them ill long after they’ve beaten the cancer.

Fortunately, a promising cell therapy is currently being evaluated in a Phase 3 clinical study called Precision-T for the treatment of deadly blood cancers including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The novel investigational cell therapy, called Orca-T, is designed to replace a patient’s cancerous blood and immune system with a healthy one to significantly improve a patient’s chances of survival while dramatically lowering risks.

“The positive results we’ve seen so far in clinical trials are very promising for patients battling deadly blood cancers which are often aggressive and for which standard stem cell treatment carries significant risks,” said Dr. Scott McClellan, former practicing physician and current Chief Medical Officer of Orca Bio, the company developing Orca-T. “Orca-T has the potential to transform treatment options for patients and physicians, and the Precision-T Phase 3 Study is a critical step toward making this cell therapy available to the patients who need it.”

The Precision-T study is now enrolling patients at clinical trial centers across the U.S. To learn more about eligibility criteria and to see if there is a clinical trial site near you, visit the Precision-T Study website.

How you can help

If you want to help save someone’s life or aid in the development of new cell therapies that have the potential to save even more lives, consider becoming a donor. Learn more about the role of a donor and sign up by visiting Be The Match online.

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