UAlbany Gift of Life Hosting Swab Drive to Find Matches for Blood Cancer Patients

UAlbany volleyball players Danielle Tedesco (left) and Anna Chalupa taking the swab test in 2021.
UAlbany volleyball players Danielle Tedesco (left) and Anna Chalupa taking the swab test in 2021. (Photo by Ben Marzouk)

By J.T. Stone

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 31, 2023) – One person in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In 2023 alone, more than 180,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other types of blood cancer.   

The last treatment resort for many blood cancer patients is to receive a bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, a procedure in which healthy blood-producing cells are infused into the body to make up for bone marrow that’s not producing an adequate amount of healthy cells. However, before someone can donate their stem cells, they must be a close enough DNA match to someone in need. 

The University at Albany’s chapter of Gift of Life, which facilitates bone marrow transplants, is hosting a drive next week for people to take swab tests and join the nonprofit's national bone marrow registry – increasing the chance that someone with blood cancer or a bone marrow deficiency will find a life-saving match.

“It’s three swabs inside your cheek and it takes five minutes,” said Ben Marzouk, a senior at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity and president of UAlbany’s student-run Gift of Life chapter. “It’s important for the registry to be as diverse as possible because every life matters.”

Many ethnic groups are underrepresented in the Gift of Life registry, making it more difficult for these individuals to receive a life-saving bone marrow transplant. White Americans are 79 percent likely to find a matching stem cell donor compared to only 29 percent of African Americans, according to Gift of Life’s website

After taking the swab test, the individual will be notified if they’re a match and then be able to decide whether or not to donate their stem cells.

“Your sibling is only a match 25 percent of the time, which means that 75 percent of the time it’s a stranger,” Marzouk said. “Nothing is binding when you take the swab test, but those five minutes can mean the difference between someone living and someone dying.”

The event is open to the public and you can register for the swab test at the Gift of Life table or online here. It will take place Monday, Nov. 6 through Friday, Nov. 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday, 11/6: Lecture Center
  • Tuesday, 11/7, and Wednesday, 11/8: Small Fountain
  • Thursday, 11/9: Campus Center (UAlbanyGo Table by Starbucks)  
  • Friday, 11/10: State and Indigenous Quads (outside of Eastman Tower and Mohawk Tower, respectively)