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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Bone marrow donors harder to find for minorities; 70 MPH speed limit in PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 21, 2015 11:41 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, July 21, 2015:

Every 3 minutes a person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer or disease such as leukemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell. Thousands will require a bone marrow transplant to treat their disease, meaning a matching donor has to be found.

Unfortunately, finding a bone marrow donor is not an easy task. Unlike blood, in which there are only four main types, bone marrow tissue has millions of different variants, some being more common than others.

Because of the large number of different tissue types, approximately 75% of patients looking for a bone marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. These patients must rely on volunteer donors.

Joining us on Tuesday's Smart Talk are Aimee Haskew, a community engagement representative of the Be The Match Registry, an organization that connects patients with donors and Fritz Spence, an unsuccessful transplant recipient still looking for a donor match.

Anyone interested in becoming a donor can visit

Also, state policy makers are still studying the impact of 70 mile-per-hour speed limits on Pennsylvania interstate highways. For the last year, there have been test zones in effect on sections of interstates 80 and 380, and on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

According to a Penn State study of crash and speed data, the change in the speed limit has led to a 33% drop in the number of vehicles going faster than the posted speed limit.  

Joining us on Tuesday's Smart Talk to discuss the future of the higher speed limit is Rich Kirkpatrick, press secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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Fritz Spence and Aimee Haskew

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  • Bob Nunn img 2015-07-21 09:58

    I see a lot of blue plates that don't look like they're doing the construction zone speed limit, maybe to make sure they're leading by example.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-07-21 10:04

    Dr. Neil Palmisiano comments...
    As a bone marrow transplant physician at Penn State Hershey, I listened with interest to your discussion this morning regarding matched sibling and matched unrelated donor transplant. There is a wide array of research that increasingly demonstrates that alternative donor transplants are as effective and safe as “matched” donor transplantation. Especially with haploidentical transplantation (also known as “half-match” transplantation), patients that have a healthy parent or child of donating age (>18 in most circumstances) are guaranteed to have a suitable donor. While matched sibling transplantation remains the gold standard, Be The Match has a clear financial interest in promoting that match-unrelated-transplantation is the only viable alternative to matched-sibling transplantation.

    Any fair discussion of BMT should include the enormous success of the alternative donor strategies. Expanding Be The Match’s donor pool is important, but, so is a balanced discussion of the science and outcomes of modern bone marrow transplantation.

    Regardless of the controversy that exists regarding the best donor for transplantation, I greatly appreciate your coverage of such an important and complicated topic.

    All my best,

    Neil D. Palmisiano, MD, MS

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-07-21 10:06

    Heather tells her story...
    Thank you for doing today's Smart Talk topic about the national Bone Marrow Registry.

    My husband Barry (Acute Myeloid Leukemia patient with loss of Chromosome 7, in remission after a stem cell transplant through Be the Match) and I are looking forward to listening to the radio interview.

    He (a Caucasian) received his transplant in January 2015, after finding an unrelated, 18 year old male international anonymous donor from a list of 8 perfect matches.

    My husband has engrafted well with the donor cells, and while he struggles with some complications, I firmly believe the transplant saved his life so far. Chemo alone would not have saved him, with the chromosome abnormality.

    A co-worker's fiancé was diagnosed with AML (same diagnosis) 2 months after my husband was. In contrast, Reggie (the fiancé) is of African American heritage....and had NO matches on the registry. He has since received a cord blood transplant, as it was his last option open, and is struggling with complications.

    The topic of a lack of donors for minorities, and a general lack of knowledge about the need for ANY healthy, eligible person to register to be a bone marrow/stem cell donor, which is not covered by the "Organ Donor" designation on your drivers license, is SUCH an important topic.. Thank you for bringing it to light.

    On behalf of my husband Barry and I, we thank you for this topic, and for all that Be the Match is doing. So far, it has saved the life of the man I love, and hopefully it will help Reggie and those like them also.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-07-22 16:40

    Teman writes...
    First of all, let me say that I have registered for the bone marrow registry. Having said that, I know that many African Americans are quite leery of the medical establishment due to a history of malpractice: Henrietta Lacks, the syphilis experiments, forced sterilizations, etc. I think that expanding participation will have to go far beyond just getting information out.