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Bone marrow donor recruitment program bill to be introduced in Harrisburg

Bone marrow donor recruitment program bill to be introduced in Harrisburg
Bone marrow donor recruitment program bill to be introduced in Harrisburg 02:17

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Many people with blood cancers don't have suitable bone marrow donors in their family and are desperately waiting to find a stranger who's a match.

Several Pennsylvania lawmakers are hoping to change that. They're introducing legislation to create a public health education program to shine a light on the need for bone marrow donors.

It can be tough for Pennsylvanians with leukemia and other blood cancers to find a bone marrow transplant match. For many, finding a donor is their only hope for a cure.

"We're all affected by people who have had different cancers throughout our families and our lives. I've had several members of my family who have been affected by such instances. And I do want to make sure that people have the best opportunity if they are diagnosed with an illness, such as a blood cancer, that they have the best chance of survival," Pennsylvania State Representative Joe McAndrew, who represents Penn Hills, Plum, Oakmont and Verona.

McAndrew said he's working with a handful of other representatives to prepare a bill that would establish a bone marrow donor recruitment program and database that would be managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

He said the hope is to spread the word and educate people about the need for donations and how to join the national bone marrow donor registry.

"It would create a database that we would be able to pull from whenever someone doesn't have a match for bone marrow," McAndrew said. "Seventy percent of patients who need a transplant do not have a fully matched donor within their families, so the doctors will turn to this database to help find an unrelated donor on the national registry. More people are needed to join the registry so patients can have a greater chance of finding a match."

Longtime Pennsylvania State Rep. Tony Deluca was mentioned in the memorandum sent to all House members. Deluca died in October 2022. He was battling lymphoma, a disease he had beat twice before.

The memo said, "This is an issue that has directly affected the families of several House members in recent years, including our colleague, Tony DeLuca." 

"My father-in-law is going through leukemia right now. It's a similar type of leukemia that my predecessor, Rep. DeLuca, passed away from. And I really believe that giving people opportunities to get this life-saving procedure will move the ball forward for the health of our people," said McAndrew.

Rep. McAndrew said they did a survey for this bill and found around 200,000 Pennsylvanians would be willing to donate bone marrow, and they hope this legislation will help them decide if they want to be added to the life-saving donor list. 

"This is from living donors. You can donate time and time again and it will lead to more people being saved," he said.

Rep. McAndrew said they're about to start the process to try to get this donor recruitment legislation through the Pennsylvania House.

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