THE family of a student in desperate need of a transplant is hoping the efforts of an Oxford donor drive might have saved her life.

Lara Casalotti, 24, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia just before Christmas, but her mixed race heritage makes it difficult to find a stem cell donor as there are not enough registered who classify as the required ethnic minority.

But after Sunday’s donor drive in Jesus College, University of Oxford, her brother, Sebastian, says he is hopeful a donor may have been found.

Mr Casalotti, 20, a University of Cambridge student, said: “There was only a one-in-four chance that I would be a match for my sister and, unfortunately, I wasn’t; which is a shame because I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.T

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“But I am so thankful to all the people who turned up at the donor drive in Oxford on Sunday, because I think there were 265 people at one college and then another 50 popped up at another, which is just incredible.

“It should take eight to 12 weeks to find out if anyone was a match for Lara; or anyone else, for that matter.

“So we will keep our fingers crossed and hope we have found someone.”

According to Mr Casalotti, 80 per cent of white people have a chance of finding a stem cell donor, while people of mixed race only have 20 per cent.

Miss Casalotti – who is half Chinese-Thai and half Italian – was in Thailand assisting University of Oxford professor Bridget Anderson with a study about migrant workers when she was diagnosed.

Oxford Mail:

Lara and Sebastian Casalotti

The professor of migration and citizenship said: “When I first met Lara, she wasn’t very well at all and she only managed to do one day of work with me outside in Thailand. And she was excellent of course.

“I’m so impressed with the whole campaign because, essentially, Lara’s story is saving lives.”

The vice-president of the University of Oxford bone marrow society, Cameron Henderson-Begg, said the turnout to Sunday’s donor drive was the highest he had ever seen.

The 22-year-old Chinese student said: “The most people I’ve ever seen at a donor drive was 55, so it is really quite something that over 300 people turned up.

“We’re going to run another drive at the Oxford Union on Wednesday 3 while the Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club hold Town versus Gown.

“We would welcome anyone and everyone to come along from 7pm.”

For more information about donations, visit the website


STEM cell transplants are procedures that restore blood-forming stem cells in people who have had theirs destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy used to treat certain cancers.
Blood-forming stem cells are important because they grow into different types of blood cells, which protect your immune system, carry oxygen through your body and form platelets, which help the blood clot.
Stem cells transplants do not always work against cancer directly, apart from for certain types of leukaemia.