07/13/2015 06:12 EDT | Updated 07/13/2015 06:59 EDT

Noor Deol, South Asian Teen, Searches For Bone Marrow Match

An Ontario teen battling leukemia has come to B.C. hoping to find a matching bone marrow donor who could save his life.

Noor Deol, 18, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia five years ago. He went into remission in 2013, but relapsed in December.

Because his cancer is so aggressive, chemotherapy is not an effective treatment. Deol, who is South Asian, needs a bone marrow transplant.

However, he doesn't have any matching family members, so he's appealing to the public for help.

noor deol

The problem is, the vast majority of Canada's 330,000 registered stem cell donors are Caucasian. Noor's best chance of finding a match is among people with the same ancestry as him, because genetic markers are different between ethnic populations.

Statistics from one doctor show that just 4.8 per cent of those donors are South Asian, reported the Toronto Star. The odds are even lower if a patient is of mixed race.

Canada's OneMatch program is working to raise the number of ethnically diverse male donors in Noor's age bracket. Signing up requires a simple and painless cheek swab.

Noor and his family travelled from Ontario to the Vancouver area this month to engage the South Asian community in that region.

They organized events to raise awareness at Gurdwara Khalsa Diwan in Vancouver and another at the Kaldighar Darbar Temple in Abbotsford last week, according to Global News.

They've also started a YouTube channel, trying to get the word out. (Watch above.)

The teen's family is keeping in touch with the bone marrow registry in India, where Noor has the best odds of finding a donor. They discovered that many people were unwilling or unable to sign up, because they have to pay C$89 (US$70) to cover the cost of the cheek swab.

So the family decided to pay for the cost of the swabs, resulting in more than 1,000 candidates in India coming forward. They launched a GoFundMe page to cover expenses.

"We didn't want money to be the reason that Noor couldn't find a match. However, it's getting really expensive for us to be able to afford all of this," wrote Noor's sister, Simrat.

"These people who are registering are not just doing it for Noor, they are doing it for ANYONE who needs a stem cell/bone marrow transplant."

Click here to find out how to register as a bone marrow donor in Canada.

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