For the majority of BMT patients who require unrelated donors, the odds are still unequal for all those whose genetic backgrounds are not well represented in existing donor registries. When MAVIN began its BMT work in 2001, it was quickly became apparent that mixed heritage patients were among those whose chances of finding an unrelated donor were quite slim. This disparity reflects broader and persistent healthcare disparities that in turn impact health inequalities among population groups in our country.
The efforts of groups like MAVIN have shown that it is indeed possible to recruit diverse BMT donors, and highlighted that more remains to be done. MAVIN’s MatchMaker program pioneered work with college-age people through Marrow-thons held nationwide, leading to youth recruitment becoming part of the mainstream. Ten years later, the donor pool has become more genetically diverse, but the demographics of BMT recipients has not, according to the latest available data. As the US population continues to diversify, especially in younger generations, efforts to expand the genetic representation in the blood and marrow donor pools (including cord blood) and to improve access to life-saving transplants for all, are critical.