VANCOUVER, B.C. AND LOS ANGELES — An upcoming feature-length documentary, “Mixed Match,” explores the unique challenges faced by multiethnic patients with deadly blood diseases when searching for bone marrow donors.
“Mixed Match,” inspired by the work of L.A.-based outreach group Mixed Marrow, explains how race and ethnicity play a critical role in finding a marrow match for patients suffering from fatal blood diseases.
In order for a marrow or stem cell match to occur between a patient and donor, genetic markers on the cells must align. Because many of these markers are specific to certain ethnic groups, multiracial people often carry markers in uncommon combinations.
To put this in perspective, if a patient diagnosed with leukemia has a mixed Egyptian, Japanese and Russian background, chances are high that only a person with a similar ethnic blend could be a possible donor. For mixed patients, mono-racial parents and relatives will not likely be a genetic match—even siblings hold only a 1 in 4 chance of matching one another genetically.
Each year, over 30,000 people in North America are diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases and for most of them, a bone marrow transplant is the only chance for survival. In the U.S., fewer than 3% of those on the national bone marrow registry are multiethnic. This statistic, although proportionate to the population of mixed people in the country, poses a substantial challenge to mixed patients given the endless variety of possible genetic combinations in the registry.
According to OneMatch, Canada’s national stem cell registry, there are only 1,694 searchable registrants identifying as multiethnic out of over 300,000 currently on Canada’s stem cell network.
Says “Mixed Match” director Jeff Chiba Stearns, “For these patients, finding a multiethnic marrow match in the public registry has been compared at times to ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ or ‘winning the lottery.’ Therefore, this is a very timely and important issue as more people today are entering into interracial unions and the number of mixed children being born is skyrocketing. ‘Mixed Match’ is an important human story told from the perspective of youth who are forced to discover their identities through their deadly illnesses and how their mixed backgrounds threaten their chance at survival, thus highlighting why, in this day and age, knowing your history and heritage still matters.”
“Mixed Match” will follow the stories of several multiethnic patients, through struggle, success, joy, and tragedy.
The “Mixed Match” team has launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to cover the costs associated with the continued production and post-production of the film as well as to help raise awareness by encouraging more people join their national registries. Currently they are over 20% funded towards their $25,000 goal. The crowd source funding campaign wraps Friday, April 27. The Indiegogo campaign can be reached here.