The Sunday Magazine

Search for stem cell transplant donor by mother with cancer is a challenge

Manjusha Pawagi, a forty-seven year old mother of 11-year-old twins, a writer and a judge in Brampton, Ontario. Ms. Pawagi has aggressive leukaemia, and is in desperate need of a stem cell transplant - but finding the right genetic match is a challenge.
A poster for the campaign to find a stem cell match for Manjusha Pawagi.

From her hospital bed, Manjusha Pawagi made a promise. If I make it, she said, if I live, this will be my cause. Forty-seven years old, a mother of 11-year-old twins, a writer and a judge in Brampton, Ontario, Manjusha had aggressive leukemia. Her best hope of survival was a stem cell transplant. Stem cells are the new liquid gold in medicine. Scientists are exploring their potential in the treatment of many diseases. Right now, though, their primary use is treating in cancers of the blood and bone marrow: leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.  

In the past, stem cells were extracted from bone marrow. Today, almost all stem cells are harvested through blood. A much simpler, and essentially painless, procedure. A transplant needs a match, a perfect genetic match. And there IS a stem cell registry in Canada. But it's small, and most of the people on it are white. So Manjusha's friends went into high gear, in a desperate search for a donor. 

Alisa Siegel's documentary, "Manjusha's Match" first aired in October. 

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