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Robin Roberts' MDS Diagnosis Spurs Bone Marrow Donations

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NEW YORK -- As Robin Roberts waits for a bone marrow transplant this fall, news of the morning show anchor's illness is helping others who need treatment.

The national bone marrow donation registry Be The Match reported Tuesday that the rate of new registrants has more than doubled since the "Good Morning America" anchor announced on June 11 that she has MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease. Roberts helped supervise a bone marrow registry drive at ABC News headquarters in Manhattan.

George Stephanopoulos and Lara Spencer of "GMA" and ABC News President Ben Sherwood showed up by a cafeteria, swabbing material from their mouths.

Roberts, who will receive a bone marrow transplant from her sister, said her mother told her to "turn a mess into a message."

"When I received this latest disappointment I did not know what the message would be," she said, "and now I do."

Jeffrey Chell, CEO of Be The Match, said some 15,000 people had registered since Roberts announced her diagnosis. That's 11,200 more than the registry would normally receive in that period. Of those new people, some 60 to 70 will be judged a good match and have some of their marrow used in a transplant.

Roberts' effort to publicize the bone marrow registry is reminiscent of Katie Couric at the "Today" show in 1990s. She urged people to be tested for the same type of cancer that her husband had suffered and died from.

From The Huffington Post:

Despite the milestones Be The Match has achieved, Chell says the program's ultimate goal is to provide a matching donor for every patient who needs one. "The only way we can accomplish this is by increasing the ethnic diversity on the Be The Match Registry. We need more committed minority donors to save more lives," he said in a release announcing the launch of a nationwide effort to increase African-American bone marrow donors this July.

Although Be the Match has some 10 million potential donors, only 7 percent are African American, CNN reported earlier this month.

"You're more likely to find a match with someone who shares your common ancestry or ethnicity," Chell told CNN. Unfortunately, the chance of finding one on the national registry is as low as 66 percent for African Americans and other minorities, compared with 93 percent for Caucasians, Be The Match reports.

Roberts also spoke to this disparity in a written announcement about her battle with MDS. "Bone marrow donors are scarce and particularly for African-American women," she wrote. "I am very fortunate to have a sister who is an excellent match, and this greatly improves my chances for a cure."

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