Instructions for Collecting and Shipping HLA Samples Using Cheek Swabs

This information explains how to collect and send human leukocyte antigen (HLA) samples.

After you send your HLA samples to Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK), they will be tested to see if you can donate stem cells to the patient.

The HLA Testing Kit

MSK provides 1 HLA testing kit for each donor. If you’re sending your HLA samples, you are the donor. If you’re helping someone else send their samples, they are the donor.

Each kit has the following supplies:

  • 2 packets of sterile cotton swabs. There are 2 swabs in each packet. Use all 4 swabs.
  • 1 sterile plastic shipping tube (black top tube)
  • Labels
  • MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form
  • Padded envelope

The padded envelope should be pre-addressed with the following address:

     Center for Laboratory Medicine
     Attn: Yevgeniya Bensman – Specimen Logistics 1st Floor
     327 East 64th Street
     New York, NY 10065

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Collecting the HLA Samples

Wait about 1 to 2 hours after eating or drinking before collecting HLA samples.

Figure 1. Swabs drying on test tube
  1. Using 2 cotton swabs, rub the inside of one cheek about 10 times. You can use 2 swabs at once, or you can use them one after the other.
  2. Using the remaining 2 cotton swabs, rub the inside of your other cheek about 10 times.
  3. Rest the swabs on the outside of the black top tube (see Figure 1). Let the swabs air dry for at least 2 to 3 hours. Keep them in a safe place. If the swabs aren’t completely dry before they’re put in the black top tube, they may develop mold. If this happens, they can’t be used for testing.
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Sending the HLA Samples

  1. Place all 4 swabs inside the black top tube. Close the top of the tube.
  2. Check the labels to make sure they’re completely filled out. Each label should have the following information:
    • The patient’s name
    • The patient’s medical record number (MRN)
    • The donor’s legal name
    • The donor’s date of birth (DOB)
    • The donor’s relationship to the patient (such as brother, sister, cousin, aunt, or uncle)
    If any of the information is missing, write it on the label. Please print clearly.
  3. Attach the label to the outside of the tube (see Figure 2).
    Figure 2. Swabs in tube with filled out label 
  4. Fill out the highlighted sections of the MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form. Please print clearly. The highlighted sections include:
    • The date and time the samples were collected
    • The donor’s name
    • The donor’s relationship to the patient
    • The donor’s date of birth
    Please double check that the form is filled out completely, including the date and time the samples were collected. If you don’t fill out the form completely, there may be a delay in processing your samples.
  5. Put the black top tube and MSK Histocompatibility Testing Form into the padded envelope. Before sealing the envelope, check the following things:
    • There are 4 cotton swabs in the black top tube.
    • The black top tube has a label.
    • The label on the black top tube is completely filled out.
    • The highlighted sections of the MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form are completely filled out.
    After you have checked these things, seal the envelope.
  6. Mail the envelope to MSK.
    • If you can, mail the envelope using UPS or FedEx. This will help make sure it reaches MSK. To do this, bring the envelope to a UPS or FedEx location. You can find the location closest to you by visiting or
    • If you can’t reach a UPS or FedEx location, you can mail the envelope using the United States Postal Service (USPS) by putting it in your mailbox or bringing it to your local post office.
    • When you’re sending the envelope, ask the mail staff for a tracking number. Keep the tracking number until you hear that your HLA sample has been processed. You may hear from MSK or from the patient.
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Additional Information

  • If more than 1 donor is sending samples in the same envelope, make sure that all swabs are in the correct tube and labeled with the correct donor’s information.
  • All samples must be received and processed by MSK.
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