150,000 POTENTIAL STEM CELL DONORS ARE GIVING BLOOD CANCER PATIENTS HOPE THANKS TO ONE UNIVERSITY SOCIETY - 1 in 4 stem cell donors are now recruited by ‘Marrow’ university societies

Students from over 50 universities across the UK have helped blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan recruit an incredible 150,000 students to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register, since the first Marrow group was created 21 years ago. 

Marrow’ is the name given to blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s network of student volunteer groups.

The first Marrow society was created at the University of Nottingham, with the aim of recruiting students to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. For many people with blood cancers or blood disorders, receiving stem cells from a stranger is their best chance of survival.

Research has found that younger donors are more likely to save the lives of patients, so the work done by Marrow is invaluable. Over a quarter of all stem cell donations that have occurred in the last two years were from donors recruited by Marrow. University students across the country are continually giving people with blood cancer and blood disorders a second chance of life.

Liam Du Ross, 24, from North Wales is a research chemist and signed up to the Anthony Nolan register in September 2014, while at Bangor University. 

Liam said: ‘I was at my university freshers fair and stopped to talk to the volunteers running the Marrow stall. I wanted to help someone in need, and I had already signed up to donate blood at this point, so the Anthony Nolan stem cell register seemed like the next step.’

Earlier this year Liam received a call to say that he had been found to be a match for someone in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.

‘When I found out that I was a match for someone, I felt really lucky. I had absolutely no doubts about going through with the donation at all, the whole experience was a pleasure. The nurses involved in the process were exceptional, and they helped to put me at ease. I donated via PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection) so I was able to lie there and catch up on podcasts and TV shows!

‘I thought about my recipient a lot during my donation and how I would feel if I were in their situation. I would love to meet them one day and I hope they feel the same. 

‘To anyone thinking of signing up to the register, I would say that you should absolutely sign up. If someone you knew was that person who needed a transplant, you'd want to do everything in your power to help them.’ 


Shaswath Ganapathi, 21, is a 4th year medical student at Birmingham University and the secretary of Birmingham Marrow. He decided to volunteer with Marrow after his friend, Rohan, sadly died from leukaemia last year. Shaswath and the other committee members hold events across their university, where they encourage students to sign up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register, any of whom could go on to donate their stem cells in the future.

Shaswath said: ‘The donors I have spoken to have said that it’s the most life changing thing they have ever done, and they would never have thought that spending a few minutes signing up at a stand and doing a quick cheek swab could lead to potentially saving someone’s life.’

Aisling Cohn, Youth Programmes Manager at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘Marrow really are the unsung heroes helping Anthony Nolan give hope to patients with blood cancer, by signing up an incredible number of potential donors to the stem cell register.  Any one of these people could save the life of someone with blood cancer.

‘It costs £40 to add each new person to the Anthony Nolan register, any money raised by Marrow will directly help save lives. They really are lifesavers!’

What is a stem cell transplant?

If a patient has a condition that affects their bone marrow or blood, then a stem cell transplant may be their best chance of survival. Doctors will give new, healthy stem cells to the patient via their bloodstream, where they begin to grow and create healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.


  • Marrow has recruited over 150,000 potential donors in total. 
  • Marrow has recruited over 1,350 people who have gone on to donate. That's over 1,350 lives potentially saved.
  • A quarter of all stem cell donations that occurred in the last two years were from Marrow.

Key statistics

  • About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a stranger every year
  • 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood
  • We need more young men to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 18% of the register
  • We need more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to sign up. Patients from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have only a 20% chance of finding the best possible donor match, compared to 69% for northern Europeans.
  • It costs £40 to add each new donor to the register so we always need financial support
  • To join the Anthony Nolan register, you must be 16-30 and healthy. Anthony Nolan’s world-leading Research Institute has shown younger donors offer better outcomes for patients.

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