By Jessica Kwek
Daily Bruin Contributor
Hundreds of UCLA students were in Westwood Plaza last week to
register to be potential bone marrow donors and hopefully make a
difference in the life of a patient in need.
Howard Kung, vice president of the Lambda Phi Epsilon
fraternity, which sponsored the event, said that this bone marrow
drive originated because past members died because of lack of
suitable marrow donors. Lambda Phi Epsilon is the only national
Asian American fraternity.
“It is a lot easier to find people matches from similar
ethnic backgrounds,” Kung said.
The bone marrow drive is Lambda Phi Epsilon’s national
philanthropy, and it is administered by Asians for Miracle Marrow
Annually, the bone marrow drive is a major part of Lambda Phi
Epsilon’s philanthropy at UCLA. The event at UCLA drew
approximately 200 people, Kung said.
The patients that are in need of bone marrow generally suffer
from leukemia or anemia. Many of these conditions, as well as other
uncommon conditions, are curable only by bone marrow
“This is our way of helping people around us,” Kung
People that need bone marrow have limited time to find a
suitable match and parents are not always the best matches, said
Felix Valde from Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches.
Seventy percent of those in need of marrow transplants cannot
find a match in their family, Valde said.
“There is an 85 percent chance of finding a match in a
person’s own race,” Valde said.
Although the Asian American fraternity sponsored the drive,
people from all races were encouraged to contribute.
“It’s not just about race,” Kung said.
“It’s about reaching out to people.”
The aim of the bone marrow drive at UCLA, as in all bone marrow
drives, is not to collect the actual marrow itself but to collect a
small blood sample. This sample of two to three tablespoons of
blood is then analyzed for human leukocyte antigens. The results
are placed in the National Marrow Donor Program’s computer,
which searches internationally to help find donors.
There are 4 million potential donors listed in the NMDP
“There are 30,000 cases curable to bone marrow transplants
every year,” Valde said.
After a match is found, additional tests are done to make sure
there is an exact match.
“A perfect match is six matching antigens,” Valde
In desperate cases, some patients will find a partial match
where only four or five out of the six antigens match. Some of
these cases are successful, but the match rate is not as high as in
the transplants with perfect matches, Valde said.
“The total number of successful transplants was 8,000 in
1987 and that number is growing exponentially,” Valde
Once the match is found, the marrow is extracted from the donor
from the back of the pelvic bone, using local anesthesia to
eliminate the pain.
The bone marrow drive is designed to increase the numbers on the
NMDP computer to increase the chances of saving a life, Valde said.
The more people who participate, the better the chances are to find
“This is a unified effort,” Kung said.
Lambda Phi Epsilon has chapters all over the country that have
similar bone marrow drives to obtain potential donors.
Lambda Phi Epsilon sees the bone marrow drive as a unified way
of reaching out to people all over the world, Kung said.
“There is nothing more effective than personal
communication,” Kung said.