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Sue Harris Trust – SwabWeek

Adding a new generation of lifesavers

The Anthony Nolan Trust is responsible for the UK’s national register of potential stem cell and bone marrow donors for treating people with blood cancers. However, tissue type is strongly influenced by ethnicity, and there has historically been a problem of insufficient numbers of members of ethnic minority communities on the register.

To address this problem in the Jewish community, the Anthony Nolan Trust has partnered for a number of years with a charity focused on that community, the Sue Harris Trust. When it began its partnership with the Nolan, there were only 48 Jewish donors on the register.

Sue Harris was a close friend of Hope partners, Lionel and Michael. She died 20 years ago of leukaemia. The campaign that began in the (unsuccessful) quest to find her a matching bone marrow donor continues to this day, and has helped recruit thousands of people to become potential donors of bone marrow or stem cells, and save lives.

However, there has been a strategic shift in focus. There is a major advantage in recruiting young people (16+) as stem cell donors. Their health is better than older age cohorts, so they are more likely to be fit to donate if necessary. Medical research has also shown that cells from younger donors lead to better long-term survival for patients after transplant. Younger recruits can also be on the register for longer – the cut-off age is 61.

Given these facts, the Trust now focuses on the 16+ age group, targeting Sixth-Formers and students. We created the concept of Swab Week (#SwabMob), an annual campaign to engage with schools and students. Having devised this strategic route, we then created the branding and marketing materials across multiple online and offline channels.

The campaign was so successful that 1200 new potential donors were added to the register, more than the previous 4 years put together.