Finding Pinoy marrow donor last hope for FilAm leukemia patient

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

March 4, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Filipino-American Ryan Manansala, 29, is once again fighting for his life.

Ryan was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in 2012. He needed a bone marrow transplant, but could not find a match, not even among his family.

So last year, his family sold their house and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for an alternative remedy—a cord blood transplant.

After a successful operation, Ryan faces another devastating realization. He has relapsed and is once again fighting cancer—this time with tougher odds.

“A lot of patients when you relapse that means you’ll be more immune to the different types of chemotherapy that patients get,” Manansala said. “So therefore it’s probably going to be a lot stronger. Not many people survive the second time around. First time there’s a good statistics [on] survival rate but with relapse, it’s a little harder. It’s a lot stronger, and a lot faster this time around than last time.”

Rather than lose hope in his own situation, Manansala has chosen to continue to be an inspiration to others.

“You have all these Facebook messages, people are telling me their stories, their personal stories about leukemia,” he said. “You start realizing you aren’t the only one and you are being an inspiration to other people. At the same time I’m being inspired from hearing other people’s stories. So it’s like a whole family of cancer survivors patients that all kind of gather to support each other.”

Even though Manansala is specifically looking for Filipino donors, there is a huge shortage for minority donors, in general. Many minority blood cancer patients suffer every year without finding a match.

Advocates from the Asian American Donor Program say it is not difficult at all to help Ryan and other cancer patients.

A potential donor just needs to be between 18 and 44 years old to register. Then you can sign on to through Asian American Donor Program at

Thi Lie of the Asian American Donor Program says Manansala needs a donor who is full or part Filipino. Out of the 10.5 million donors registered through the AADP, less than half of one percent are of Filipino or Pacific Islander decent.

“What you’re actually donating are stem cells and stem cells are found in the blood streams and they are found in the marrow,” Lie explained. “So most of the time now, with new technology and procedures, it’s similar to donating platelets of blood. A second procedure which is done, not as common but simple as well, is where you are put in general anesthesia for a little bit for an hour. Marrow is taken from your hip bone and you go home the same day.”

Despite all the pain and struggles he is facing, Ryan is still hopeful that somewhere, someone out there will save his life.

“After what I’ve been through, 10 rounds of chemo, 10 biopsies, full body radiation, all that really kind of doesn’t mean much if I don’t have a transplant,” he said. “No matter how much work I put in, how much I’ve been suffering the past two years, it still comes down to that one person who registers. It’s a quick cotton swab. Fill out your name and that’s all. It’s giving me a chance, as well as other patients.”

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  • Jean Asuncion
    10 March 2014 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I signed up my son to be a donor.Hope he will be his match.