Palo Alto mother seeks marrow donors for her son, or others

May Fete celebrants can register as potential donors at Addison Fair booth

As she watches her 12-year-old son grow weaker from repeated rounds of chemotherapy, Palo Alto resident Liz Poux stays focused on what will be needed to save his life.

Nico Poux, a seventh-grader who has lived with leukemia since the age of 6, is preparing for a bone-marrow transplant at Stanford Hospital. His family is casting the widest possible net for the most suitable donor.

Palo Altans will have a chance to help this Saturday as they celebrate the May Fete Parade.

In a booth at the parade's end at the Addison Elementary School fair, healthy adults can provide a swab of their cheek cells and enter themselves into an online registry of millions of potential donors.

The booth in honor of Nico, whose father is French Caucasian and mother is Korean American, is sponsored by the Asian American Donor Program -- but is seeking volunteers of all races and ethnicities. The organization brings potential donors into the national Be the Match Registry, formerly known as the National Marrow Donor Program.

The odds of a registrant actually being called are about on par with winning the lottery, Asian American Donor Program staff member James de Lara said.

"This isn't just about Nico but about all the other people looking for donors," Liz Poux said.

"At Stanford alone, there are plenty of people having difficulty getting a match.

"I just hope we can get past this and try to move on. It's hard that my children's experience right now is still full of cancer, especially for Nico."

Nico is the middle of Liz and Philippe Poux's three children.

Though Liz Poux grew up locally and graduated from high school in Mountain View, the family has lived in Paris until moving here last summer.

Nico is enrolled in the International School of the Peninsula but has not been well enough to attend since October, his mother said. When he's up to it, teachers from the school sometimes have come to the house.

Born and raised in France, Nico is bilingual and has studied a third language -- Spanish -- at school. He enjoys reading, loves Star Trek, roots for the Cal Bears and hopes one day to become an oncologist, his mother said.

"He's had chemotherapy for a long time, and his body is now very, very tired," she said.

At Stanford alone, more than 275 patients are looking for donors, said Professor of Medicine Rob Negrin of the Medical School's Bone and Marrow Transplantation program.

"The problem we face when we're looking for someone who could be a donor ... is they have to share certain genes," Negrin said.

"There's a one in four chance that any sibling would match, but most of us don't have six, eight, 10 siblings," so it is common for patients to need alternative donors, he said.

The Be the Match Registry is among the largest in a global registry system.

"About 13 million people (worldwide) have volunteered to be donors for someone they've never met -- it's really amazing," Negrin said.

"So let's say, we find somebody in China. They don't have to come here -- they can donate locally and the cells are shipped here. On Sept. 11 when all the planes were grounded, there were six to eight products in the air at that moment," he said.

If a suitable match is found and verified, about 75 percent of the time donors can give through what's known as peripheral blood stem cell collection, in which blood is drawn from the arm. The other 25 percent have marrow collected from their hipbone while under anesthesia.

"If one were chosen to be a donor, it's a minor medical procedure," Negrin said.

"You give up some of your bone marrow cells, but they grow back."

For more information, contact the Asian American Donor program at or 800-59-DONOR.

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Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I donated my bone marrow in 1979 and gave the gift of life to my sister. I also know the pain of losing a child. My heart goes out to the family. I encourage people to step up and help. It's an incredible opportunity.

Like this comment
Posted by HSS
a resident of Southgate
on May 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

We're on the registry because my son died of Leukemia. I'd love to be a match for someone. My family hopes a match is found for Nico.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

A very sad tale

There is no shortage of Caucasian donors in the US

Could someone explain why Asian Americans are so reluctant to donate bone marrow?

The risk is tiny

Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on May 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I hope Nico finds a match!

Like this comment
Posted by Match?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 7, 2011 at 3:36 am

Oh!! I was just thinking of going over to be matched, but it looks like there is no way I could match if I am white? Does one have to Asian to be a match? Is there a chance if I am white?

Well, on the other hand..I would be going in honor of Nico, but I suppose there is a chance I would match someone else on a waiting list, so I will go anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by Brit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

British people are not allowed to give blood. Does that mean British people can't donate or go on a marrow donors list?

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2011 at 8:59 am

Good Morning!

I just wanted to answer some of the questions that were posted above. My name is James and I am with the Asian American Donor Program (AADP) with the Be the Match Registry.

The first question, "Why are Asian Americans are so reluctant to donate bone marrow"

There are many factors that contribute to why Asian Americans are reluctant to register as marrow donors. One major factor is education. I've personally seen that if we can show how simple it is to register and how important it is to be a marrow donor, people make better decisions about becoming a bone marrow donor or not.

The next Question, "I was just thinking of going over to be matched, but it looks like there is no way I could match if I am white? Does one have to Asian to be a match? Is there a chance if I am white?"

The centers that manage the transplants has found that ethnicity is a major factor when matching between patients. This means that if the patient is Chinese, their donor is probably going to be Chinese. This does not mean a Caucasian person cannot match with a Chinese person-- the probability is just significantly lower.

The last question, "British people are not allowed to give blood. Does that mean British people can't donate or go on a marrow donors list?"

You are definitely welcome to register to part of the Be the Match registry. There are different guidelines to register as a potential marrow/stem cell donor. The general guidelines are:
-Be between the ages of 18-60 years old.
-Be in general good health.
-Be willing to donate to anyone in need.

Please visit to see upcoming marrow/stem cell registration drives in the Bay Area.

If you have other questions or concerns feel free to email us at or check visit

Thank you for your continued support!

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