City of Hope encourages Latinos to donate marrow

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The City of Hope in Duarte has started a new campaign urging Latinos to become marrow donors. The hospital has appealed to Gloria Estefan and other popular Latino musicians to help spread the word.

The artists recorded the song, “La Gota de la Vida” or “The Drop of Life," as part of City of Hope’s new campaign urging Latinos to join the National Marrow Donor Program.

Dr. Joseph Alvarnas, a hematologist at the City of Hope, says donating is an easier process than it used to be. Before donors would have to go into the operating room, where doctors would collect marrow directly from the hip bone. Alvarnas says now it’s more similar to donating blood.

“These days with the advent of what are called peripheral blood stem cells, those are cells which are mobilized from the donor’s marrow into the blood, that we can collect the stem cells using the same sort of machine, a blood cell separator that’s used for collecting platelets,” said Alvarnas.

Finding compatible marrow donors has a lot to do with ethnicity. Right now only about 10-percent of the volunteers in the marrow donor program are Latinos. Alvarnas would like to boost that to at least around 15-percent. That will give Latinos who need donations a better prospect of finding a match.