Texas A&M University-Kingsville students can potentially save the life of a cancer patient by joining the Be The Match Registry during GenCure’s fifth annual Be The Cure On Campus marrow registry drive Feb. 17-19.
The drive is in honor of Lou Gonzalez, an A&M-Kingsville student who passed away in his junior year after a long battle with leukemia.
“Lou is no longer here, so this is my mission,” said Cindie Barrera Deleon, Lou’s mother. “I don’t want any other parent to feel the way that I did.”
GenCure, a subsidiary of San Antonio-based BioBridge Global, works with Be The Match to find potential donors in South Texas.
Every person who joins the Be The Match Registry gives hope to blood cancer patients. For many patients fighting leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers and blood diseases, a stem cell or marrow transplant is their best hope for a cure. Just 30 percent of patients find a match from within their family.
Most patients turn to the Be The Match Registry in hopes of finding an unrelated donor who closely matches the genetic tissue typing of their immune system, which is inherited from a person’s ethnic background. However, only 7 percent of the current registry is made up of donors who are of Hispanic descent, leaving many Hispanic patients, including Lou, with no available matches on the registry.
“Having a child go through this battle and to never get the news that he had a match, it’s devastating,” Deleon said.
Instead, Lou received a matching cord blood transplant, which includes stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood. He relapsed soon after and received a 50 percent matched marrow transplant from his father. After two years of battling cancer, Lou passed away in June 2018.
Since the program began at A&M-Kingsville in 2016, more than 1,700 students have joined the Be the Match Registry. This year’s drive aims to add 300 potential marrow or stem cell donors to the registry.
For Deleon, every person who signs up for the registry fulfills her mission.
“I want anyone fighting this to hear that wonderful, amazing news that ‘We found a perfect match for you,’” she said.
To take part in the marrow donor drive:
Texas A&M-Kingsville students can join the registry by visiting one of GenCure’s sign-up tables from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, Feb. 17-19. Tables will be located at:
• Memorial Student Union Building (First Floor)
• Outside the Javelina Dining Hall
• Outside the Jernigan Library
• Dotterweich College of Engineering Building
• Fine Arts Quad
Potential donors must be between the ages of 18-44 to register, in general good health, and have no history of or current serious illnesses. Those who sign up will be on the registry until they are 61. More information about the registry is available at GenCure.org/BeTheMatch.