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Actress Penelope Cruz is asking fans to sign up to become bone marrow donors.

While filming in London for her upcoming movie, Nine, Cruz met Joe Cawse, a young boy from Maidstone, Kent, England, who has been on a donor waiting list for over three years.

“He’s a sunny and intelligent eight-year-old but is battling with leukemia as I speak,” Cruz said. “One suitable donor could save his life.”

To spread the word, the Vicky Cristina Barcelona star has teamed up with British charity, The Anthony Nolan Trust, in its efforts encourage people to join the bone marrow register this holiday season.

Leukemia patients need bone marrow transplants because the chemotherapy or radiotherapy processes necessary to defeat the cancer also severely weaken the patient—bone marrow is needed to redevelop the immune system. However, less than a third of the patients are able to find a bone marrow match within their own family, and have to hope to find a match from a stranger instead. The probability of finding one is slim, but creating a large registry of potential donors increases the odds of discovering a suitable match for the patient.

Of the donation process, Cruz said, “I was very surprised to discover there are two different ways to donate your bone marrow and the second way is a much easier, less invasive process than I had ever imagined. If only more people in Britain knew that there is a method of donating bone marrow that is simple and pain free.”

She added, “Imagine if it was your brother, mother, cousin or friend, and with just one step, you could save their life. Wouldn’t you do it? Please contact The Anthony Nolan Trust register and find out how simple it is to save a stranger’s life.”

If you are between the ages of 18 and 40, you can donate bone marrow. Learn more about how to join the bone marrow registry at The Anthony Nolan Trust official website: www.anthonynolan.org.uk.

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