Bill To Promote Bone Marrow Donations Advances

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TRENTON – Legislation to promote bone marrow and blood stem cell donations – particularly to help boost minority participation – has been approved by the Assembly and is set for Senate consideration.

The measure (A-2168) is named Jaden’s Law in honor of Jaden Hilton, a 3-year-old New Jersey boy who died of leukemia on Jan. 29, 2007. Jaden needed a bone marrow transplant to survive, but neither his parents, brother nor any of his relatives were a match. Due to the lack of other donors within the bone marrow pool, another match couldn’t be found.

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Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services would prepare an online brochure for display on the website of the Department of Health and Senior Services, based upon information derived from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).

The brochure may be downloaded by physicians to inform patients of the option to become a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donor.

Of the 8 million people who have registered as potential donors with the National Marrow Donor Program, just 600,000 – 7 percent – are African-American, limiting an African-American’s chance of being matched with a donor for transplant.

Bone marrow is used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases. It is rich in blood-producing cells that can replace those lost to disease and chemotherapy. Although the procedure is generally called a stem cell transplant, it’s also known as a bone marrow transplant or an umbilical cord blood transplant.

Donor and recipient marrow must be a close match for a successful transplant, which means patients are more likely to find a match within their own racial or ethnic background.

About 30 percent of patients who need transplants have a relative who matches their marrow type. The other 70 percent need unrelated donors, but with so few African-Americans on the donor list, they are less likely than Caucasians to get the transplant that could cure them.

The bill was recently approved 78-0 by the Assembly and is expected to be considered today by the Senate health panel.
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