Team Margot is a charity created in memory of Margot Martini, an inspirational toddler with a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia, who sparked a worldwide campaign to find more stem cell donors.
Margot, from London, tragically lost her battle with blood cancer in 2014 and passed away aged just 2 years and 2 months old. But now her family is campaigning in her name to encourage more people to sign up to the UK stem cell register.
In Wales, more than 75,000 people have already joined a database of potential marrow donors, but the Welsh Blood Service says many more are needed. This database is used to make about 30,000 searches a year to find a possible donor match and since 1989 more than 850 people in Wales have gone on to become donors.
The reception, held in Parliament on May 18th, attracted around 150 people, including Olympic sports champion Daley Thompson, Former Crimewatch host Nick Ross and actor Alistair Petrie, who has appeared in the BBC drama The Night Manager and Star Wars: Rogue One. Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP also made a short speech.
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP said: “This is a campaign that I feel very strongly about, and one that I wholeheartedly support. We urgently need to boost the number of donors on the UK stem cell and bone marrow register and I urge as many of my constituents in Torfaen to sign up to the register.
Daley Thompson CBE said: “Everyone deserves a fair chance at life. It’s vital that more people sign up to the stem cell and bone marrow register – particularly those from BAME and mixed heritage backgrounds – to help improve the chances of those in need finding a donor. I think everyone should do something good today and sign up to the register to potentially save another person’s life.”
Nick Ross, former Crimewatch host and trustee of the UK Stem Cell Foundation added: “I know from my work with the UK Stem Cell Foundation just how important it is that people sign up to the stem cell register. Stem cell therapy offers patients with debilitating diseases and conditions a real lifeline – I encourage as many people as possible to support this campaign.”
Blood Cancer is one of the top 10 most common causes of cancer death in the UK and worldwide. For many patients, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant offers the greatest chance of survival. However on average, only half of those seeking a “perfect” matching donor will ever find one.
And if the patient – like Margot – has a mixed ethnic background or is from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) community – then the odds fall to just 21%, as finding a suitable donor with a matching tissue type becomes even harder.
Team Margot hopes to have 2.2 million people signed up to the UK stem cell register before the next International Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Registration Day on October 7th. The 2.2 figure represents both a celebration of Margot’s life and an aspiration to double the current number of people on the UK stem cell register.
Margot’s father Yaser Martini said: “We believe that greater efforts should be made to raise awareness in the UK and across the world so that people understand the crucial difference that becoming a donor can make.”