Shannon Tavarez Receives Cord Blood Transplant


Actress Shannon Tavarez, 11, who stars as Nala in The Lion King was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April of this year has received an umbilical-cord blood transplant.

The procedure was done Tuesday, August 17, at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park as an alternative to a bone marrow transplant.

The young actresses best shot at recovery would have been a bone marrow transplant which proved difficult due to her mixed heritage. The majority of successful matches are between people who share a similar race or ethnic background.

Shannon’s mother is African-American and her father is Hispanic, from the Dominican Republic.

Both African-American and Hispanic groups are underrepresented in bone marrow registries which make finding good matches difficult.


According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) every year, more than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases for which the best option for a cure can be a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor or donated cord blood unit. Approximately 70% of patients in need of transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.

Currently, 83% of African-American patients who need marrow transplants don’t find matches after six months of searching. One big reason for this is that only 7% of the 8 million potential donors on the national registry are African-American.

Perhaps the greatest reason people do not register to donate bone marrow is the myth that the screening procedure or the donation itself involve painful surgeries. Screening involves a simple mouth swab to collect cells.

To become a bone marrow donor, you will need to join the NMDP. This allows doctors from around the world to search the registry to find donors that match their patients. To join the NMDP registry

  1. You need to be between the ages of 18 and 60 years.
  2. You need to meet the health criteria. Persons with conditions such as HIV, insulin-dependent diabetes, hepatitis and autoimmune diseases are generally excluded.
  3. While there is no minimum weight requirement, there is a maximum. The maximum acceptable weight would be a person's weight associated with a body mass index (BMI) of 40.
  4. If you are part of a registration drive, then often the sponsor of the drive will cover the costs. If no, then you may be asked to pay for the tissue typing (approx $52).

For more information: FAQs about Joining the Registry

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