Aflac and Be The Match partner to help diversify the National Blood Stem Cell Donor Registry

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Alflac is working with Be The Match to improve access to bone marrow transplants. 12,000 patients are diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers or other diseases like sickle cell each year. 70% of patients not having a fully matched donor in their family depend on Be the Match to find an unrelated donor.

Aflac, which is the biggest provider of extra health insurance in the United States, and Be The Match®, which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program and has helped with more than 111,000 blood stem cell transplants around the world, announced today that they will work together to keep making the national blood stem cell donor registry more diverse.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, so Aflac is running a campaign to raise awareness of both. Since 1995, Aflac has donated over $160 million to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the nation's largest sickle cell care provider.

Aflac and Be The Match will launch a digital registration drive in September to add hundreds of Aflac employees and sales agents to the national blood stem cell and marrow donor registry. The two companies will work with NBA player Marcus Smart, who lost his brother and mother to blood cancer, to highlight health care inequalities, particularly in blood stem cell and marrow registries. On September 28, 1:00–2:00 pm, U.S. News and World Report will host an informative webinar.

"One of the defining moments of my life was seeing my oldest brother courageously battle leukemia. His legacy continues to inspire me on and off the court, as do all of the young patients who are fighting for their lives to beat leukemia or sickle cell disease," Marcus Smart said. "To know that there is a potential cure for blood cancer and blood disorders but those cures aren't available to all patients because of their ethnicity is unacceptable. That's why I'm joining Aflac and Be The Match to use my voice and encourage everyone to consider swabbing their cheek and joining the national blood stem cell registry. This is just one way we can give hope to patients and help save more lives."

Be The Match reports that ethnicity affects donor matching for lifesaving blood stem cell or marrow transplants.

Patients are most likely to match someone of the same ethnicity because tissue types are inherited and unique. Black or African American patients have a 29% chance of matching, compared to 79% for white patients due to tissue type diversity.

"This initiative with Be The Match focuses on two of Aflac's long held passions, helping children with cancer and blood disorders, and supporting programs that help close equity gaps, such as the one that currently exists related to access to bone marrow matches in the United States," said Aflac Executive Vice President, General Counsel Audrey Boone Tillman.

"It also aligns perfectly with the incredible work of Be The Match, whose vision is to ensure everyone has an equal chance at getting their life-saving transplant, particularly for many children with sickle cell and blood cancers such as leukemia. There is a dire need, especially for children of color, to encourage friends and family to register with Be The Match."

"Every year, 12,000 patients are diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers or other diseases like sickle cell for which a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor is their best or only hope for a cure. With 70% of patients not having a fully matched donor in their family, they depend on Be The Match to find an unrelated donor," said Erica Jensen, Senior Vice President, Member Engagement, Enrollment and Experience, for Be The Match.

"To address existing disparities head on, it's essential to register as many young, diverse members as we can to ensure more people will find a match. In partnership with Aflac and Marcus Smart, we are urging everyone to get involved, swab their cheek and help save a life."

Be The Match will include Aflac's award-winning My Special Aflac Duck® in their Packages of Hope, which they give to children with cancer and sickle cell who need blood stem cells or marrow matches. They will also host educational programs throughout the month. This program will give 1,000 children free access to My Special Aflac Duck, a robotic comfort duck.

Source: Aflac newsroom

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