Did you know that leukemia accounts for one third of all childrenís cancers?According to the American Cancer Society, in 1992 the eighth leading cause of cancer death among Native Americans in the United States was leukemia.


*The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 1993, there were 29,000 new cases of leukemia diagnosed, accounting for 2.5% of all new cancer cases that year.Out of the diagnosed cases, 60% were acute leukemia, the type of leukemia that rapidly progresses.





Figure 1. Types of leukemia found in children.Chronic lymphocytic leukemia almost never occurs in children.Information obtained from the National Cancer Institute, Cancerlit News.




*Since the 1950ís advances in treatment for leukemia have contributed to increased survival rates. The most significant advances occurred in acute lymphocytic leukemia, one of the more common types of leukemia affecting children (Fig 1).


*Before the 1950ís there was no effective chemotherapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia, and the procedure of a bone marrow transplant was not available until the 1970ís.The most dramatic increase in survival rates for acute lymphocytic leukemia has occurred in children between 2 and 10; survival rates increased by 20 % from 1974 to 1988.








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Figure 2. The distribution of the volunteer potential donors in the NMDP registry as of April 30, 2000.


*Medical technology has advanced allowing us to gain ground in the fight against leukemia. Although we have the technology to perform bone marrow transplants, a problem remains in finding donors so we can cure people with leukemia. Unfortunately, minorities account for only 25 % of registered donors in the National Marrow Donor Program

Registry (NMDP).††


*As of April 30, 2000, the total number of potential donors was 3,969,685.Figure 2 illustrates the distribution of possible minority donors registered with the NMDP registry.American Indian/Alaska Natives account for 1.6 % of the registered donors in the NMDP registry.The number of transplant donors NMDP registry has doubled since 1995, but there is still a demand for minority donors.





Figure 3.The distribution of the total NMDP facilitated unrelated marrow transplants.15.4% of the total have been minority transplants as of April 30,2000.

*With so few minority donors, especially the few number of Native American donors, there is a smaller chance for a Native American with leukemia to find a donor match.As shown in figure 3, Native Americans who have obtained a bone marrow transplant from the NMDP account for only a very small fraction (0.5 %) of the total number of transplants.†† "While Caucasian patients searching the registry have an 80 percent chance of finding a match... the odds of people of other races locating a match is between 20 percent and 55 percent. The odds for some patients, however, can be as low as one in a million," according to one reporter, Lesley Farrey Pacey, a donor herself, whose marrow donation saved the life of a 5 year-old boy.Thousands of Native Americans die each year because they cannot find a marrow donor, or like the Native American woman with leukemia, Shellie, they do not find donor soon enough.This is the reason it is so important for the NMDP to recruit more minority donors including Native Americans.