Instructions for Collecting and Shipping HLA Samples Using Cheek Swabs

This information explains how to collect and send human leukocyte antigen (HLA) samples. These samples will be used to match the patient with a donor for a bone marrow or a cord blood transplant.

How to Collect and Send HLA Samples

One HLA testing kit per donor will be provided by MSK with the following supplies in each kit:

  • 2 packets of sterile cotton swabs. There are 2 swabs in each packet. Use all 4 swabs.
  • Sterile plastic shipping tube (black top tube)
  • Labels
  • MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form
  • Padded envelope with return address
Figure 1. Swabs drying on test tube

Each potential donor should:

  1. Wait approximately 1 to 2 hours after eating or drinking before swabbing.
  2. Using 2 cotton swabs, swab inside of cheek about 10 times. Repeat on other side for a total of 4 swabs.
  3. Allow the swabs to air dry at least 2 to 3 hours. Prop swabs on the outside of the tube in a safe place until dry (see Figure 1).
    If the swabs are not completely dry before they are put in the sterile tube, they may develop mold and cannot be used for testing.
  4. Place all 4 swabs inside the black top tube.
  5. Fill out the label with the patient’s name, patient’s medical record number (MRN), donor’s legal name, donor’s date of birth (DOB), and the donor’s relationship to the patient (brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc., see Figure 2). Please print clearly.
    Figure 2. Swabs in tube with filled out label 
  6. Attach the label to the outside of the tube.
  7. Fill out the highlighted portions of the MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form. This includes the sample date and time, donor’s name, donor’s relationship to the patient, and the donor’s date of birth. Please print clearly. If you don’t fill out the form completely, there may be a delay in processing your samples.
  8. Please ensure the following has been completed and placed in the envelope prior to sealing:
    • Total of 4 swabs
    • Completed labels
    • Completed MSK Histocompatibility Testing Requisition form
  9. Send the tube and the form in the pre-addressed envelope provided in the kit to:

                   HLA Central Processing Center
                   Memorial Sloan Kettering
                   Box 88, Room S-328
                   1275 York Avenue
                   New York, New York 10065

Back to top

Additional Information

  • If more than 1 donor is sending samples in the same package, 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 Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Back to top