Page last updated at 07:09 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 08:09 UK

Fresh hope for Merseyside boy with leukaemia

Ben Shirley
Ben is currently in hospital fighting the disease

A boy from Merseyside who has been diagnosed with leukaemia for a second time has been offered fresh hope.

Two full bone marrow matches have been found for nine-year-old Ben Shirley, from Knowsley.

The youngster underwent three years of chemotherapy after being diagnosed when he was aged five. But he suffered a relapse in January.

More than 500 people attended a recent clinic in Knowsley, although the matches came from the donor register.

Ben will now begin treatment to prepare him for a transplant at Alder Hey Hospital later in April.

We've just told him that he's going to have a bone marrow transplant and that we've found a donor
Norma Shirley, grandmother

Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside, Ben's grandmother Norma Shirley said: "We're absolutely delighted. We're so absolutely made up.

"We've just told him that he's going to have a bone marrow transplant and that we've found a donor."

Mrs Shirley said her grandson was a resilient child but was "not too well at the moment", making the matches vital.

More potential donors could still be identified following the event at Ben's school, Knowsley County Primary, on Saturday to "save other children's lives", she added.

Donors sought

Organised by Ben's family with the backing of the Anthony Nolan Trust, the clinic took saliva samples for testing to identify suitable matches.

Karen Bonnell, regional donor recruitment manager from the charity, said: "They will go down to our labs and that will take a couple of weeks.

"I thought we might get 300, 400... the atmosphere was amazing."

The charity said there were at least 16,000 people across the world looking for a vital donor match at any one time.

Potential donors have to be aged between 18 and 40 to register with the trust.

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