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UEL lecturer appeals for help to save his daughter’s life

biomedical students in lab

University students and staff urged to register as donors to save 24-year-old

Students and staff at the University of East London (UEL) have been urged to register as bone marrow donors at two on-campus events to help find a match for the daughter of a lecturer diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia.

Dr Stefano Casalotti is a senior lecturer in the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience. A week before Christmas, his 24-year old daughter, Lara, was taken ill while on holiday in Thailand. Blood tests revealed she was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia. 

Lara is now undergoing chemotherapy at University College Hospital and doctors have told her she needs a stem cell transplant to save her life. This involves taking healthy stem cells from the blood or bone marrow of a compatible donor.

Unfortunately, none of Lara's family is a suitable match. The fact that her father is Italian and her mother is Thai makes finding the right donor much harder than usual.

Doctors have advised that Lara's best chance of finding a donor is among people of mixed Asian­-European heritage within the age of range of 16 to 30.

To help find a life-saving match for Lara, UEL Marrow (the University's student-run bone marrow society) is organising two donor registration events on 22 January and 29 January to encourage staff and students to join the bone marrow register. Establishing a match can be achieved through the simple process of providing a saliva sample.

The hunt for a suitable donor for Lara is already the subject of a nationwide publicity campaign with celebrities such as J.K. Rowling, Gareth Bale and Stephen Fry joining a massive Twitter campaign using the hashtag #match4lara. Lara's plight has also been featured on TV news bulletins.

Dr Casalotti said, “I’m seeing this both as a parent and as a scientist. Doctors and scientists are trying to do their best to cure this disease, but we know that for the next 10 or 20 years, we will still need stem cells or transplants as part of the treatment. 

“Unfortunately, I cannot help even though I am on the bone marrow register, and have been for many years. If we were all on the register, then when anybody needed stem cells, a match could be found.”

Further details about the Match4Lara appeal are available on the Anthony Nolan website

Donor register events will take place from 10am-5pm on Friday, 22 January in CC G06 (Stratford campus) and Friday 29 January in EB G10 (Docklands campus).