New Partnership will Support and Strengthen Aboriginal Involvement for Stem
Cell Donors

OTTAWA, Nov. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - As part of National Stem Cell Awareness Week, Canadian Blood Services hosted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Canadian Blood Services and the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada (A.N.A.C.) in Ottawa on November 18, 2009.

The theme for this year's awareness week was Partners Uniting Lives to highlight the critical importance of partnerships, like the one we entered into with the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada.

The event was filled with performances by a number of Aboriginal groups who put on an incredible display for employees and special guests. The performances included Traditional Honour singers, a Hoop Dance performed by Amber Asp Chief, National Aboriginal Health Organization Role Model, a First Nation Grass Dance performed by Jeff Copenace, Métis jigs by Jig on the Fly and a talk by Terry Thorsen, a stem cell recipient from Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

"It is through partnerships like this that we give patients a better chance at finding a stem cell match," says Jennifer Philippe, Director, OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. "Looking back over the last five years, we have seen a 223 per cent increase in the number of patients we have searching for a stem cell transplant."

Right now, fewer than 30 per cent of Canadians who need stem cell transplants are able to find a match within their own families. The rest rely on the generosity of a donor who has volunteered to give stem cells to anyone in need.

One of the greatest barriers the organization faces is increasing the diversity of registrants - the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is currently made up of 82 per cent Caucasian donors.

"Only 18 per cent of our donors are from ethnically diverse communities, yet of the 817 Canadian patients seeking an unrelated stem cell donor, 28 per cent of these patients are diverse," says Jennifer. "The need still far outweighs the available donor supply." Often, the best chance of finding a matched donor comes from within the patient's own ethnic community. Even though last year OneMatch surpassed their recruitment targets by 167 per cent and now have approximately 250,000 volunteer donors, Aboriginal people make up only 0.9 per cent of the donor base.

"Right now, there are Aboriginal patients in Canada seeking an unrelated donor and given the uniqueness of Canada's Aboriginal community, the best chance of finding a genetic match for these patients likely falls within North America," says Jennifer.

The partnership with the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada allows OneMatch to build on the expertise and cultural safety knowledge of A.N.A.C. nurses who are trusted health leaders in Aboriginal communities, both in urban and Traditional territories.

SOURCE THE ABORIGINAL NURSES OF CANADA

For further information: For further information: Audrey Lawrence, Executive Director, (613) 724-4677x 23, alawrence@anac.on.ca

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THE ABORIGINAL NURSES OF CANADA

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