Skip to content

University researcher makes life saving stem cell donation

Researcher Nick Lewis has given a second chance at life to someone with a blood cancer or disorder, after making a stem cell donation arranged by charity Anthony Nolan. 

Nick, a researcher with the Countryside and Community Research Institute based at the University of Gloucestershire, had been registered with charity Anthony Nolan as a potential donor for 20 years. 

But because the chances of finding a complete match aren’t high – of 900,000 potential donors on the register, just 450 donated last year– he had never been called upon to provide a donation. 

Earlier this year, Nick discovered for the first time that he was a match for a man who required a transplant, which if successful could be their last chance for survival. 

The Anthony Nolan charity uses its register to match donors to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in need of lifesaving stem cell transplants. If a patient has a condition that affects their bone marrow or blood, transplanted stem cells found in bone marrow may be their best chance of survival. Anthony Nolan facilitates 1,100 stem cell transplants from an unrelated donor every year for patients in the UK. 

Nick travelled to London to undergo a simple, outpatient donation procedure – similar to the process for giving blood – in which stem cells from bone marrow were collected from his bloodstream, and later transplanted into the patient.  

Nick, who lives in Cheltenham, said: “Having been on the register for so long, it feels particularly poignant to have been asked to make this donation shortly after sad news about my former colleague Isabel Fielden, who, along with several of my other friends and neighbours, had been battling or recently succumbed to cancer. 

“The procedure for donating was easy considering the long-term positive impact it can have. It was just a course of injections and then a few hours in hospital where the stem cells were collected from my bloodstream and filtered out using a cell separator machine. 

“Being able to give someone a second chance of life to spend more quality time with their loved ones is humbling. I don’t know anything about the man who received my donation, but if everything goes well, I’d be delighted to meet him some time in the future.  

“I would really encourage people to register with Anthony Nolan because the difference you could make is immeasurable”. 

Rowena Bentley, Head of Programme and Community Recruitment at Anthony Nolan, said: “It’s brilliant hearing Nick speak about his experience of being a donor. Donors like Nick give patients a second chance at life, and we’re so thankful to him for sharing his story.  

“Signing up to be a donor like Nick couldn’t be easier. Simply fill out the form on Anthony Nolan’s website, after which you’ll be sent a swab in the post. Once you’ve completed the swab and sent it back to us, you’re on the register and could potentially save someone’s life. It’s as simple as that.”  

Anyone aged 16-30 can register to become a donor, which is a simple process. You’re able to donate until you are 61 years’ old, but you must register before your 31st birthday. Anthony Nolan is particularly keen to have people from minority ethnic backgrounds as they have rarer tissue types, which make finding a match more difficult.