Originally reported in a story from CNN, two year old Zainab Mughal from Pakistan has been fighting neuroblastoma- and in order to survive her treatment, she is going to need blood transfusions. However, this is not going to be as easy as it may seem. Zainab needs either type A or type O blood, but her blood is also missing an antigen called Indian B. Her body will attack blood that contains it, and this limitation is going to make finding suitable blood donors much more difficult.
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that appears in nerve tissue. Children are more frequently affected than adults. The direct cause of neuroblastoma is not known in most cases; in a small number of patients, an inherited mutation ALK gene has been implicated, but this only explains around two percent of cases at the most. Symptoms of neuroblastoma include a lump in the affected area which may be blue in color, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever. Other symptoms vary depending on where the tumor is located; it typically originates in the adrenal glands but can also appear on the spine, neck, abdomen, or chest. Treatment approaches include immunotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and stem cell transplant. Outcomes vary considerably; the five year survival rate is 68 percent for patients between age one and fourteen. To learn more about neuroblastoma, click here.
The pool of possible donors for Zainab is quite low; only people from Iran, Pakistan, or India could potentially be missing the Indian B antigen. OneBlood, a nonprofit organization that is helping the family find donors, says that less than four percent of people from the region will be compatible. She will ultimately need transfusions from as few as seven or as many as ten different donors. As of now, only four have been found.
These donations are necessary because of the toxic effect that the chemotherapy will have on Zainab’s body. Raheel Mughal, Zainab’s father, made a passionate plea for donors to come forward in a video produced by OneBlood.
If you think you could be a match or just want to learn more about this story, click here.