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If you and your doctor are considering an allogeneic transplant, which uses blood cells from a family member, unrelated donor or cord blood unit, the first step is typically to check if your siblings might be a match. If you don’t have a match in your family, your transplant center will work with Be The Match® to find an unrelated donor or cord blood unit for you. 

Identifying a matched unrelated donor is a complicated process that takes time so it’s a good idea to have a search done as soon as possible. Your doctor can search the Registry even while you are looking at treatment options or getting other treatment for your disease. Generally transplants done earlier have better outcomes than waiting until the disease has progressed.

Steps of the search process

Step 1. Your doctor requests a free search of Be The Match Registry®

Your doctor can request that your transplant center start a search of Be The Match Registry while planning your treatment. Your human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type is used to match you to potential donors or cord blood units.
This preliminary search, provided at no cost, will show the potential donors and cord blood units on the registry that could match your HLA type.

Step 2. Your doctor reviews the results

The preliminary search results will show a list of potential donors and cord blood units that are predicted to be a HLA match for you. However, additional testing is needed to find out which of the potential donors or cord blood units are truly suitable for you. Be The Match HLA experts can assist your doctor with interpreting the search results.

 Step 3. Your transplant doctor starts a formal search

When it is clear that an unrelated donor or cord blood will be needed for your treatment, your transplant center will start a more detailed search of the registry. This is called a formal search. The goal is to find out whether potential donors or cord blood units listed on your preliminary search results are truly suitable matches for you. This search is an agreement between you and the transplant center which allows the center to contact potential donors and have lab tests done on your behalf. There are costs involved in this process that may or may not be covered by your insurance. Be The Match® has financial aid available if your search is not covered through your insurance. Learn more about insurance coverage, financial assistance programs and how Be The Match can help.

Finding a donor is not your responsibility. 

Your transplant team is experienced in selecting potential donors to test further. Learn how donors and cord blood units are matched to ensure the best outcomes for you.

It can take as little as a few weeks and sometimes many months to find the right match for you. It is possible but unlikely that no suitable donor or cord blood unit can be found. If that happens, your doctor will look at other treatment options. 

Your treatment during the search

While your transplant center searches for your donor or cord blood unit, you will continue to receive care and be treated for your disease. Your doctors will monitor your health and condition on a regular basis. They will want you to be as healthy as possible when you have your transplant. If your health changes at all during this time, tell your transplant center team so they can make plans that fit your needs.

Step 4. Your transplant doctor identifies the best donor or cord blood unit for you

Your transplant center will retest your identified donor's HLA typing to confirm that it matches yours. The selected donor will have more blood tests and a physical exam to ensure that they do not have an infection or disease that could be passed on to you through the transplant. The tests also make sure donating will be safe for the donor. 

Your transplant doctor will also choose whether to ask for marrow or peripheral (circulating) blood stem cells (also called PBSC) from the donor. Your doctor will decide based on factors such as your health status and the health of the donor.

To learn more about how marrow or PBSC are donated, see How marrow donation works.

If cord blood is the best source of cells for you, a sample of the cord blood will be tested to confirm that it matches you. Screening for infectious diseases and other medical problems is done before the cord blood units are stored. 

Step 5. Cells are collected and transported to the transplant center

Your transplant center and the donor center will work together to schedule a donation date. The date depends on your health and when you will be ready for transplant. On the scheduled date, the marrow or blood cells are collected. A trained volunteer or professional courier from Be The Match will bring your new cells to your transplant center as quickly as possible but within 48 hours.

If cord blood is chosen for your transplant, the transplant center will ask for the cord blood unit to be shipped. Cord blood is stored frozen and can be delivered to your transplant center within 24 hours. Be The Match will arrange the shipment of the cord blood to your transplant center. 

Be The Match can help you and your caregivers understand the search process and navigate your transplant journey. Contact us at 1 (888) 999-6743 or patientinfo@nmdp.org if you have any questions.