National Institute on Aging

University of Pittsburgh Study Examines Racial Differences in Bone Marrow Donorship Decisions

wg-university-of-pittsburgh-medical-center-4Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study to learn why Blacks and other minorities opt-out ot bone marrown transplant registries at rates far higher than whites. The study, published in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, examined donors’ decisions to commit to hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) donation or opt-out of a registry after being identified as a potential match for a patient they did not know.

“Minorities searching national donor registries for potential matches today face a two-fold disadvantage,” explained Galen Switzer, professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study. “Not only is the pool of donors matching their precise blood and tissue types substantially smaller, but there also is a significantly higher rate of attrition from these registries among certain racial and ethnic groups.”

According to data from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), the largest registry of unrelated HSC volunteer donors in the world, approximately 60 percent of potential minority donors who register opt out before donation, compared with 40 percent of whites.  Whites have a 79 percent chance of finding a donor match, compared with a 33 percent chance for African-Americans.

Dr. Switzer and his colleagues found that four factors contributed to the high rate of registry dropouts among minorities: As compared to whites, minorities reported more religious objections to donation, less trust that HSCs would be allocated equitably, more concerns about donation, and a greater likelihood of having been discouraged from donating.

“Our findings suggest that recruitment messages delivered through mass media, strategies used at donor drives and the approach to managing individual donors at key points in the donation process can be tailored to overcome potential barriers to donation and to capitalize on factors that might lower the risk of attrition,” said Dr. Switzer.


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