When their 10-year-old daughter Laura was diagnosed with leukemia, Robert (Bob) Graves, D.V.M., and his wife Sherry were ready to do anything they could to save her. Desperate to save her life, they turned to alternative treatment options. They agreed to try the first ever bone marrow transplant for a leukemia patient from an unrelated donor.
Laura received her transplant in 1979. And it worked. The success of the treatment inspired the Graves to give other families the same hope for a cure. Thanks to Dr. Graves, other patient families, doctors, congressional support and funding from the U.S. Navy, a national registry of volunteers willing to donate bone marrow was born.
The National Marrow Donor Program has evolved to become Be the Match: The National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Since its founding in 1987, Be the Match efforts resulted in 61,000 transplants, with 6,300 transplants in 2014 alone. Over 250 research studies are supported annually related to cancer research. Assistance was provided to 1,800 patients in need of treatment, totaling $3.2 million in financial support last year. And most importantly, in 2014 540,000 new potential donors were added to the Registry, of which 44 percent were racially and ethnically diverse. What started as a select, disconnected, few donors, in files in the Graves family basement, today is a Registry of over 11 million donors in the United States and 22.5 million potential donors worldwide. Read the full version of this story in a 2015 issue of Pearls & Rubies.