Robin Roberts Good Morning America MDS update: Anchor's illness spurs bone marrow donations

NEW YORK - By Associated Press

A national bone marrow donation registry says the rate of new registrants has more than doubled since ABC News' Robin Roberts said that she'll need a transplant.

The "Good Morning America" anchor is being treated for MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease. She will require a transplant this fall.

Roberts stopped by a registration drive at ABC News on Tuesday, watching co-host George Stephanopoulos and her boss, ABC News President Ben Sherwood, get swabbed to see if their bone marrow is a match for someone who needs a donation.

Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the registry Be The Match, said some 15,000 people had registered since Roberts announced her diagnosis on June 11. That's 11,200 more than they would normally receive in that period.

More than 10,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with blood-related disorders every year, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. Often the best treatment is a bone marrow transplant. During the procedure, a donor's stem cells are directly transfused into the sick patient's bloodstream. The patient's new cells multiply over time to create healthy bone marrow.

Unfortunately, the chance of finding a match on the national registry is as low as 66% for African-Americans and other minorities, compared with 93% for Caucasians.

Be the Match, the national registry, has 10 million potential donors, but only 7% are African-American. While the percentage is comparable to the overall African-American population in the United States (which is 12%), the registry is meeting only about a third of the needs for African-American transplants, said Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the National Marrow Donor Program.

To sign up to be a donor, you must be between 18 and 60 years old and be in good health. Visit BeTheMatch.org for information.

Jacque Wilson, CNN contributed to this report

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