Several student organizations including Clinical Lab Sciences, Medical Explorers and the Radiation Therapy department, is partnering with GenCure to assist Texas State students in registering as a bone marrow donor.
GenCure will be on campus from Monday, April 1, 2019 to Thursday, April 4, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will be located on various parts on campus including the Health Professions building, The Quad and the Undergraduate Admission Center Arch.
Samuel Hillhouse, community service manager for GenCure, said GenCure will be hosting a bone marrow drive on campus in hopes of educating students on the importance of joining the bone marrow donor registry.
Joining the donor registry is simple. Hillhouse said all students have to do is take a swab cheek sample and fill out some contact information.
GenCure has been working with Texas State since 2008. Since working with Texas State, Hillhouse said GenCure has had over 30 donors come from the university.
“It’s been great having such an amazing relationship with Texas State,” Hillhouse said. “There’s not many campuses in the country that can say they’ve had that level of success.”
GenCure’s current goal is trying to have a more diverse group of donors. Hillhouse said cancer patients often match with a donor from the same ethnicity.
“Right now, our registry is not very diverse, and we need to change that,” Hillhouse said.
Brenda Garza, community engagement representative for GenCure, said there is huge need hispanic and latino representation in the donor registry system.
Garza said hispanic cancer patients have a less than 50% chance of finding a donor.
“By going to a school that is so diverse, and mainly hispanic, we will be able to help change that statistic just by talking to the students,” Garza said.
Being selected as a donor is extremely rare. That is why GenCure is asking for students to join the donation registry.
“For every 430 people that sign up, only one person is actually asked to donate,” Hillhouse.
Those who are selected as donors can be asked to donate through either a peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC) or through a marrow donation.
Hillhouse said PBSC donations are done 75% of the time. The process of PBSC involves drawing blood from an arm vein, collecting the stem cells from the blood and returning the unused blood back into the donor’s system.
Bone marrow donations are done the other 25% of the time. This donation method is an outpatient procedure that requires anesthesia. The process of bone marrow donations involves the collection of bone marrow from the pelvic area. Hillhouse said the process is painless but can cause a bit of soreness after.
Garza said the only time bone marrow donations are done is when there is an infant or a child patient involved.
Dr. Jessica Raley, director of community engagement of GenCure, oversees the donor recruitment and donation process.
“My goal is to ensure that the donor’s experience is as smooth, easy and convenient as possible,” Raley said.
Raley is a Southwest Texas and Texas State alumna and has been working with Dr. Ronnie Lozano, chair of radiation therapy at Texas State, in training students assisting in the donor registry recruitment process.
Raley said those who are selected as a donor match will do a health screening at GenCure’s laboratory in San Antonio before beginning the donation process.
Donors selected for PBSC donation complete the process at the GenCure laboratory and those selected for bone marrow donation go to Cook Children’s Hospital.
Raley said there is no time wasted in the donation process. She said there is a courier waiting to transport the PBSC donation wherever it needs to go as soon as the donation process is complete.
Signing up for the donor registry is an opportunity to save a cancer patients life. Students are invited to visit GenCure on campus during the listed dates and times to learn more about the donor registry process. For additional information, text “TXST” to 614-74.