A young woman diagnosed with a rare but aggressive form of cancer today appealed for Londoners to help save her life.
Talia Tosun, 24, is in urgent need of a stem cell transplant after chemotherapy was not as effective as doctors had hoped. Her only sister, Lola, 21, was not a match and no matching donors have been found on the stem cell register.
Sixty-nine per cent of patients find the best match from an unrelated donor but this drops to 20 per cent for people of black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. Ms Tosun, who grew up in Edmonton and lives in Stoke Newington, is of Turkish-Cypriot heritage.
She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer, in May. ALL is most common in children and young adults and there are about 800 diagnoses a year in the UK.
The disease affects the white blood cells, making patients anaemic and vulnerable to infection. Ms Tosun, a “data whizz” working for a tech company, suffered “overwhelming fatigue”, night sweats, bone and joint pain and rashes before diagnosis. Her skin began to turn “yellow and waxy”.
She has been treated at University College London Hospitals and has spent the bulk of her time since diagnosis as an inpatient at Homerton hospital. She received “gruelling” chemotherapy this summer. Treating ALL quickly and aggressively is vital to increase chances of success.
“So far I have received intensive chemotherapy and antibody treatments,” she said. “I will also receive more of this as well as radiotherapy in the lead up to transplant.”
Her consultant confirmed in August that the chemotherapy was not working and her best chance of recovery was from a stem cell transplant. She wants Londoners aged 16-30 of BAME heritage to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register and give people like her a “second chance at life”.
Younger donors are more likely to be used.
Ms Tosun said: “I was told there was no match on the same day I was told my second, and more intensive, round of chemotherapy was also unsuccessful. It was particularly difficult due to the double blow. My family have been devastated by the diagnosis, it has been difficult beyond words.”
She added: “Physical side-effects, from hair loss to difficulty walking, can make you feel as if you have lost who you are as a person, which for me has been the toughest part.”
Sarah Rogers, of Anthony Nolan, said: “Every single person who signs up to the register has the potential to give hope to someone like Talia who is in desperate need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant.”