A story born of love for a child
When their 10-year-old daughter Laura was diagnosed with leukemia, Robert Graves, D.V.M., and his wife Sherry were ready to do anything they could to save her. Desperate to save her life they turned to alternative treatment options and agreed to try the first ever bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
Laura received her transplant in 1979. And it worked. The success of the treatment inspired the Graves to give other families the same hope for a cure. Thanks to Dr. Graves, other patient families, doctors, congressional support and funding from the U.S. Navy, a national registry of volunteers willing to donate bone marrow was born.
Our first 10,000 blood donors step forward
Many people wondered who would step forward to donate marrow. Within the first year the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (as we were called then) was established, an astonishing 10,000 people answered the call. We conducted our first transplant as the National Marrow Donor Program® in 1987 when Diane Walters of Wisconsin donated marrow to 6-year-old Brooke Ward of North Carolina. It wasn’t long before the program took off worldwide from a tiny office at the American Red Cross in St. Paul, Minn.
Transplant becomes a reality for more patients
Beyond establishing the registry, we also invested in medical research to find the answers that would save the lives of more patients.
- 1990 - Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Dr. E. Donnall Thomas for discoveries in cellular transplantation
- 1997 - First use of peripheral blood stem cells in NMDP transplants
- 1998 - Launched umbilical cord blood transplant program
- 2001 - Built the NMDP Sample Repository, one of the world’s largest tissue sample storage facilities used for medical research
- 2004 - Partnered with the Medical College of Wisconsin to create the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research® (CIBMTR), our research program
- 2012 - Completed more than 700 peer-reviewed publications based on research conducted
- 2013 - Facilitated more than 2,800 transplants for patients over age 50 (45% of total transplants)
- 2016 - Launched Be The Match BioTherapies® to extend our services and expertise to organizations developing and delivering cellular therapies to help more patients
Leading the way in transplants – now and into the future
Learn how we support patients before, during and after transplant.
To date we have facilitated more than 86,000 marrow and cord blood transplants, and facilitate nearly 6,100 transplants a year to give patients hope for a future.
As the recognized leader in unrelated marrow transplantation, Be The Match continues to develop services and interactive technologies used by transplant experts around the world to reach more patients.
We also continue to lead the way in developing new cellular therapies, in advancing services to speed the transplant process and improving treatments for post-transplant complications. We invest in dedicated researchers whose countless hours in the lab and caring for patients have helped more patients than ever before receive a transplant.
Our commitment to fighting for better outcomes and more lives saved continues. Read more about it in our five-year strategic plan.