A sisterly bond has inspired a group of university students to roll up their sleeves in hopes of being a bone marrow match for a young leukaemia patient. 

South Australian Emma Borlace, 25, is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in Sydney after she relapsed in March.

Her partner’s sister Isabelle Morrison has encouraged dozens of Lincoln College residents in Adelaide to donate blood and plasma, in efforts to find a stem cell match for Ms Borlace. 

“We became quite close, I’d say she’s become a sister to me,” Ms Morrison said.

“She’s very driven, she’s always on top of things but at the same time she was participating in sport and had a job.”

So far more than 250 donations as part of a Lifeblood team set up under Ms Borlace’s name have collectively saved about 750 lives.

Lincoln College residents donated blood on Saturday to help find a match for Emma Borlace.(Photo: Zoe Ross)

Ms Morrison said most of the students at the blood drive at Port Adelaide on Saturday are first time donors who added their names to the registry.

The 20-year-old said she wanted to raise awareness that people could sign up to the stem cell donor registry via a small blood sample taken during donation.

She said she was surprised to learn that only 153,000 people are on the registry given Australia’s population.

“You could genuinely save someone’s life and make such a big difference in someone’s life and in their families’ lives,” Ms Morrison said.

“What I realised with Em’s situation is it can come out of nowhere … Emma was 23 [when she was diagnosed] she was perfectly healthy.

“If you’re healthy and willing, it’s not really all too much to at least put yourself on the list, you can always say no later.”

Ms Borlace was 23 and studying in New South Wales when she was diagnosed with blood cancer.

She was giving plasma but one donation last year picked up abnormalities.

Emma Borlace (right) with her partner Hugh.(Supplied: Lifeblood)

Her brother Matthew was her first stem cell donor but he was not able to donate a second time because “the leukaemia knows his cells”, her mother Katrina Borlace said.

Her mother said there was a possible match overseas but a medical team is determining whether she could get the transplant.

“For us, it’s trying to get people to donate blood in the first instance — that’s how Emma found out she was unwell and that she had leukaemia,” Mrs Borlace said.

“But it’s also the awareness about ticking that box when they’re donating blood to get on the [stem cell] donor register so there are more people in Australia that can donate their stem cells.”

“We shouldn’t have to look overseas to find a match for Australians, there should be a big pool here of people that are on that registry.”

Mrs Borlace encouraged young people, especially those aged 18 to 35, to get on the stem cell donor registry.

Isabelle Morrison (left) organised a blood drive to help find a stem cell match for Emma Borlace.(Photo: Zoe Ross)

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood statistics show a cancer patient’s chance of survival  decreases by 3 per cent for every decade of donor age.

“It is really moving to see Emma and her family so passionate about raising awareness of blood donation and joining the stem cell registry,” Lifeblood spokesperson Zoe Ross said.

“Cancer patients are the largest users of Australia’s blood supply. One third of all donated red cells go to people with cancer and blood diseases.”

Ms Borlace continues her fight against cancer with hopes to finish her degree in veterinary science.

“She’s very positive but it’s also quite difficult for her to remain positive,” her mother said.

“It’s heartbreaking to see her put [her dream] on hold.”

“Her and her partner Hugh they were in the same course so he’s also put his life on hold to support her through her treatment.”