Evelyn and Jeremy Chow with their two daughters. Jeremy is battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia and requires a stem cell donor with a similar ethnic background as himself. He is part Canton-Chinese, part British. (Facebook/ Match4Jeremy)

Stem cell donor with rare genetic makeup needed to save Saanich man after cancer returns

Jeremy Chow is half Canton Chinese, half British and needs a donor with a similar ethnic background

A Saanich man is asking the public for help after finding out his cancer returned, right before his birthday.

Jeremy Chow wrapped up his chemotherapy in the spring after receiving treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The father of two learned of the diagnosis in December 2018, and began chemotherapy shortly after.

However, doctors advised that another type of treatment might also help: stem cell therapy. For Chow, however, this wasn’t an option because of his diverse ethnic background.

In order for stem cell therapy to be possible a person needs to find a donor with a similar genetic makeup as themselves.

Chow is part Canton Chinese, part British, and the only donor in the stem cell registry with a close enough genetic match ended up being himself, years after he signed up for the program.

Now, the Chow family will look at “half-matches” in Jeremy’s parents. If his parents can pass a health exam their stem cells might be usable in treatment, albeit with a higher risk of complications.

“It’s a little bit scary,” said Evelyn Chow, Jeremy’s wife. “Really the best case scenario is to find the unrelated donor who is a 10/10 match that would reduce complications.”

READ MORE: In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

On Aug. 12, the Chow family put out a public plea for help on their Facebook page, Match4Jeremy.

“Today is Jeremy’s birthday. He should be spending his time with his wife and girls, hanging out with his friends and maybe throwing back a beer or two, but he’s not. At the beginning of June, Jeremy was considered to be in remission. On Aug. 8, after a routine blood test, they found out that his leukemia has returned,” the post reads. “At this time, we know Jeremy is in need of a stem cell donor who shares the same ethnic background as him.”

This has prompted the family to work with partners at the OtherHalf- Chinese Stem Cell Initiative to host an emergency stem cell drive in Vancouver on Saturday, Aug. 24.

“We are encouraging ALL half Chinese and half Caucasian individuals between the ages of 17-35 to come down and get swabbed. We will also be helping another local family in need of a stem cell match from Chinese donors,” said the family on Facebook.

ALSO READ: B.C. businessmen open stem cell therapy clinic in Washington State

If a donor ends up matching with someone, their health will be assessed to make sure they are eligible to donate. After that there are two types of ways a match can provide stem cells, depending on the kind of treatment required by the patient.

The most common method is through blood donation, while the second method is through a bone marrow donation.

The Vancouver emergency stem cell drive will happen at the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival at 4000 Bayview St. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,

Anyone outside of Vancouver can also easily register to donate by heading to blood.ca and signing up to do a mail-order cheek swab. The ideal donor is between the ages of 17 and 35. While both women and men are welcome, men are more sought after because they can produce higher volumes of stem cells.

Anyone with a similar ethnic background as Jeremy is asked to contact the family directly at match4jeremy@gmail.com

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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