Donny and the Professor Cure Blood Cancer The new animated comic book, Donny and the Professor Cure Blood Cancer, is urging young men to follow in the steps of their comic book heroes and become lifesavers by joining the UK stem cell register. Produced by blood cancer charity, Anthony Nolan, it hopes to encourage people of all ages to save lives everywhere.

Drawn by one of Anthony Nolan's in-house designers, Rowan Caney, the series has been called “funny and whip-smart”, spoofing the nostalgic, earnest tone of classics like Hanna-Barbera and Thunderbirds. In total the series is split into three different parts, with each part telling how Donny and the Professor embark on a ‘fantastic voyage’, entering the bloodstream to see what a stem cell donation actually does. It also aims to bust some of the myths surrounding blood cancer --  such as the myth that it’s painful.

Stem Cell - How It Works
Initially Donny's source of inspiration comes from a young man called Ethan Buttress, who is one of the youngest people in the UK to donate stem cells to a stranger. In 2014 Ethan was just 17 years old when he gave a desperately ill child a chance of life.

In an interview he gave, the artist Rowan said: “Everyone who joins the Anthony Nolan stem cell register is a potential lifesaver. Ethan’s story is really special and he was the inspiration for the character, but we believe all young men who join our register are heroes”.

Rowan's comment was then quickly backed up by Ethan who stated, “It’s a thrill to be the inspiration for Anthony Nolan’s new myth-busting series. I’m a massive fan of comics and cartoons. I read Marvel comics and I really love the Japanese Studio Ghibli films and Adventure Time. Now I’m joining the likes of Finn and Captain America! I can’t believe I’ve been turned into a comic book character”.

Ethan is now 19 and living in Camden, London, working at designer retailer, Oliver Spencer. He first heard about Anthony Nolan in June, 2014, when Anthony Nolan visited his school. He signed up -- by providing a spit sample -- and just a few months later discovered he was a match for a child with blood cancer.

Donny and the Professor Cure Blood CancerIt was so easy to sign up”, said Ethan, “I popped my spit in a tube and sent it off to Anthony Nolan. Then they extracted my DNA and put it on the national database. I knew Anthony Nolan would call me if I was a match for someone needing a transplant. But I pretty much forgot all about it. Then in August that year, I got a phone call saying I was a match for a young child”.

Once you are on the register you have a 1 in 900 chance of being asked to donate in the next five years. But your chance of being chosen to donate depends on your age and sex. A young man aged 16 to 30 has a 1 in 200 chance of being chosen to donate.

Ann O Leary, Head of Register and Development at Anthony Nolan, explains: “Young men like Ethan make up only 15% of our register but provide more than half of all donations. We need more young men to sign up as they are underrepresented. Young people are most likely to be chosen to donate as they provide the best outcomes for patients and are less likely to have long-term health problems which might delay or prevent donation. 

To find out more information please visit www.anthonynolan.org, or alternatively, the first and second episodes of the comic book can be watched here.

Some Key Statistics About Stem Cell Transplants.
  • About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a stranger every year.
  • 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood.
  • We need more people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to sign up. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match. This drops dramatically to around 20% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you're from a Black, Asian, or ethnic minority background.
  • It costs £60 to add each new donor to the register so we always need financial support.


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