Quebec womans leukemia battle highlights need for minority bone marrow and stem cell donors

MONTREALA Quebec womans desperate online plea for a compatible stem-cell donor in her bid to fight cancer a second time is shedding light on the lack of minorities on official lists in Canada and abroad.

Mai Duong finds herself battling leukemia again and doctors say they would like to proceed with a transplant of bone marrow or cord blood stem cells within a month.

But Duong, 34, has discovered that locating the right person can be a needle-in-a-haystack challenge, particularly for those who are from a non-Caucasian background.

This is a global problem, Duong, who is of Vietnamese origin, said in an interview from her room at Montreals Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.

We cant do a scavenger hunt every time someone has this type of problem.

Duong, who returned home a few days after being interviewed, said a recent bone marrow biopsy showed no signs of cancer. She will now begin four weeks of maintenance chemotherapy, which is given in lower doses to assist in prolonging a remission.

The mother of a 4-year-old girl, Duong successfully fought off acute leukemia in 2013 with chemotherapy. She had to terminate a 15-week pregnancy to undergo the treatment. Duong was in remission until a blood test revealed leukemia had returned this past May.

Seventy per cent of people who had that type of leukemia were just cured with chemotherapy, and unfortunately Im in the 30 per cent, she said.

The diagnosis and a lack of a match in her family have touched off a mad scramble to find a fellow Vietnamese donor. An online campaign has taken that hunt global.

I have cancer, I had a relapse, I dont have a bone marrow (donor) these are things I cannot change, Duong said. So I said, what can I do about it?

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Quebec womans leukemia battle highlights need for minority bone marrow and stem cell donors

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