Students recruit over 17,000 potential lifesavers to the stem cell donor register

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is saying thank you to students from 50 UK university Marrow societies, who have recruited over 17,000 students to the stem cell register and raised £57,000 this academic year.

‘Marrow’ is the name given to blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s network of student volunteer groups. Over the last academic year, 17,855 potential stem cell donors have been recruited through Marrow, any one of these students could save the life of someone with blood cancer.

This academic year also marked 20 years since Marrow was first created. Since then, student groups up and down the UK have recruited over 145,000 potential donors and over 1,200 of these people have gone on to donate their stem cells. That’s over 1,200-second chances of life for people with blood cancer.

Anthony Nolan is the charity that finds matching donors for people with blood cancer – and gives them a second chance of life.

For many people with blood cancers or blood disorders, receiving stem cells from a stranger will be their last chance of a cure, so the work done by Marrow societies is invaluable, particularly because young people are most likely to be chosen to donate. In the last two years, over a quarter of stem cell donations were from donors recruited by Marrow.

This year Marrow societies in London and Birmingham also ran two citywide recruitment campaigns, called Londoners and the Birmingham City campaign, which aimed to recruit potential donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to the stem cell register.

Both campaigns were launched by Marrow because it’s more difficult for patients from these backgrounds to find a donor with a matching tissue type, as they make up a smaller portion of the UK population and the Anthony Nolan register broadly reflects this.

Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match, and this drops dramatically to around 20% if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background. This is because a patient’s best match will most likely come from a donor with the same ethnic background as them. Marrow societies want to change these odds by growing and diversifying the register, giving hope to more people with blood cancer.

Aisling Cohn, Youth Programmes Manager at Anthony Nolan, said:

“Marrow really are the unsung heroes. They work hard throughout the year, alongside their studies, raising money and signing up an incredible number of potential donors to the stem cell register.

“It costs £40 to add each new person to the Anthony Nolan register, so the money raised by Marrow will directly help save lives. It really has been an amazing, lifesaving year for Marrow and together, we can work towards a future where nobody is waiting for their match.”

To find out more about Marrow, or to join your local group, visit