Innovative stem cell donor recruitment campaign results in almost 50% increase in diverse ethnic donors from Luton on the national register

Luton Swab Week, held between 23-27 January, was a UK first for town-wide stem cell donor recruitment, organised in partnership with Luton Council, Luton Rising, Luton Sixth Form College, the University of Bedfordshire, Anthony Nolan, the National BAME Transplant Alliance, Cricket East, Wicketz, Streets and Macmillan Cancer Support.

We are all created equal, until blood cancer strikes. Anyone can get blood cancer, but not everyone has the same chance of survival. Patients who need a stem cell transplant to save their life are more likely to find their best match from a donor of the same ethnicity. But 70% of all registered donors are white, even though 88% of the world’s population isn’t. So patients from ethnic backgrounds are at a major disadvantage, which we simply cannot accept.

Luton Swab Week focused on tackling this health inequality, successfully adding 389 potential lifesavers to the national stem cell register. Over 83% of those recruited were not of a white European background, which has resulted in an increase of almost 50% in the ethnically diverse donors from Luton on the national register.

Cllr Khtija Malik, Luton Council Portfolio Holder with responsibility for Public Health, said: “Luton Swab Week was an important step in our commitment to tackling health inequalities to improve outcomes for our residents.

“We look forward to continuing our work to diversify the stem cell register, an important step in ensuring patients from diverse ethnicities have the same chance of finding their match for stem cell transplants. This initiative has been so important, not just for our town, but for those in need of stem cell donations all over the UK. Students at Luton Sixth Form College and University of Bedfordshire have proven just how quick and easy it is to become a potential lifesaver by registering to be a donor with Anthony Nolan.”

Cllr Javeria Hussain, Chair of Luton Rising, said: “It was incredible to witness the strength of our community in supporting this vital campaign to save lives. We are proud to have partnered with Anthony Nolan and Luton Council to organise Luton Swab Week that was supported by grassroots organisations, including Cricket East and Wicketz, to provide local volunteers to lead the events and communicate the importance of joining the stem cell register locally. Thank you to all those who came forward to do the quick cheek swab – this selfless act could potentially save someone’s life.”

Alice Hirst, Development Manager at Anthony Nolan, said: ”It was fantastic to engage with so many young people across the week’s events. We are committed to diversifying the Anthony Nolan register and continue to inform, educate and recruit from different communities up and down the UK.”

If you are aged 16-30 years old, you can still become a life saver. Visit to order a postal swab kit.