Remembering Peter C. Nowell, MD, Niels Borregaard, MD, PhD, Laurence Boxer, MD, and more

Peter C. Nowell, MD (1928-2016)

Peter C. Nowell, MD, an acclaimed researcher and co-discoverer of the Philadelphia chromosome, which pointed for the first time to a genetic basis for cancer, died on December 26, 2016, from complications of Alzheimer disease.

Dr. Nowell earned his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1952, did a rotating internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, and trained in pathology at Presbyterian Hospital. He spent two years at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory in San Francisco studying radiation and bone marrow transplantation before returning to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as an instructor and later as a professor in the Department of Pathology. He served as chairman of the department from 1967 to 1973 and was the first director of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, now known as the Abramson Cancer Center. He received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, the 1998 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science. In 2015, the endowed Peter C. Nowell, MD, Professorship was established in his honor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

He is survived by sons Timothy and Michael, daughters Karen and Kristin, a brother, and seven grandchildren.

“I can still remember his phone call to my mentor Frank Gardner, MD, then chief of medicine and section of hematology at Presbyterian University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, where I was training as a fellow. He requested clinical materials from patients with myeloproliferative disorders, myelodysplastic syndromes, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia for his research, and I was luckily assigned to work with him.

I would personally drive the bone marrow samples to his office at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and spend time picking his brain about the diseases we were collaborating on. Correlating his chromosome findings with my clinical observations resulted in many published papers. Our collaboration lasted throughout his career until he retired.

Despite the accolades he received throughout his career, Dr. Nowell was short on hubris, his family said. He liked to remind listeners that he was always a third-stringer on any athletic bench, that his ineptitude with hand tools was legendary, and that his medical students had to suffer through his frequent puns.”

−Submitted by Emmanuel C. Besa, MD, from Thomas Jefferson University

“Peter Nowell was my lab instructor in medical school and the first to plant the seed in me of embarking on a career in hematology/oncology, and, ultimately, in leukemia. He was the only lecturer we had in our early medical school years who did not use any slides – he didn’t need to, as he communicated clearly and concisely, and minimized his own accomplishments, describing them as being not a stroke of genius, but instead the consequences of his being a good observer. He explained to us that his parents, both teachers in a Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, taught him how to teach ‘without props.’ He taught me the basics of cancer genetics and cancer epidemiology, and his examples are ones I still use in teaching my own medical students and trainees. He remains a role model of modesty, and of the importance of being able to describe my own research, and why I find it compelling using plain language that anyone can understand.”

−Submitted by Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS, director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic, and Editor-in-Chief of ASH Clinical News


Niels Borregaard, MD, PhD (1951-2017)

Niels Borregaard, MD, PhD, former Associate Editor of Blood, passed away from lung cancer in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 10, 2017. Dr. Borregaard received his MD in Aarhus, Denmark, where he also completed his doctoral thesis on the activated neutrophil. Between 1982 and 1984, he worked with Robert A. Clark and Alfred I. Tauber in Boston. In 1998, he was appointed professor of hematology at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Haematology for 14 years until 2014.

Dr. Borregaard’s research involved innate immunity with a focus on antibiotic peptides and neutrophil granulocytes – their formation, structure, and function. He published many papers in the field of neutrophil cell biology and has been awarded several honors for his work.

Dr. Borregaard is survived by his wife and four children.

Read a tribute from his former Blood colleagues at bloodjournal.org/page/niels-borregaard.


Laurence Boxer, MD (1940-2017)

Laurence (Larry) Boxer, MD, a dedicated pediatric hematologist/oncologist, passed away from myeloma on January 7, 2017. Dr. Boxer was born in Denver, Colorado. He received his BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his MD from Stanford University School of Medicine. He completed his pediatric residency at Yale University and Stanford University and his pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Boxer began his career as an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1975. In 1982, he joined the University of Michigan Medical School as professor and director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. He was honored as the inaugural Henry and Mala Dorfman Family Professor of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology in 2003. His personal academic interests in the study of neutrophils and disorders of neutrophil biology led to multiple advances in the diagnosis and care of patients with defective neutrophil function and failed neutrophil development.

The University of Michigan established the Laurence A. Boxer, MD, Research Chair of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases in 2010. In 2016, Dr. Boxer received the ASH Mentor Award in recognition for his service as a research mentor, educator, and career advocate to several generations of trainees during his 40-year career in pediatrics.

Dr. Boxer is survived by his wife of 47 years Grace Jordison Boxer, son David, and grandchildren Samuel and Olympia.


Kwok-Kin Wong Named Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center

Kwok-Kin Wong, MD, PhD, formerly from Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, joined the Perlmutter Cancer Center at the New York University Langone Medical Center as chief of hematology and medical oncology. He started the position in January.

Dr. Wong’s research has provided insight into the genetic and environmental causes of lung cancer and enabled the testing of novel therapies. He is credited with clarifying the role of genes such as EGFR, ALK, and PI3 kinases.

Source: New York University Langone Medical Center press release, October 7, 2016.


Carrie Lee Named Chair-Elect of the Clinical Research Initiative Steering Committee of the Association of American Cancer Institutes

Carrie Lee, MD, MPH, assistant processor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Lineberger Cancer Center and medical director of the UNC Lineberger Clinical Protocol Office, was named chair-elect of the Clinical Research Initiative Steering Committee of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). The initiative was established eight years ago to develop better methods to disseminate information across cancer centers, identify and address clinical research challenges, and measure progress on behalf of AACI.

“The scientific advances driving the era of personalized cancer medicine are tremendous,” said Dr. Lee. “But we need to take an equally intense look at the clinical trial processes and operations that will facilitate enrollment of patients on the innovative trials that will bring these new treatments from bench to bedside – if we don’t do that, we’ve missed the boat.” Dr. Lee’s term starts this year.

Source: University of North Carolina Lineberger news release, November 4, 2016.


Patrick J. Stiff Receives Loyola University’s Stritch Medal

Patrick J. Stiff, MD, director of Loyola Medicine’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, received Loyola University’s Stritch Medal, the highest honor given by the Stritch School of Medicine.

Dr. Stiff has established groundbreaking treatments for leukemia and lymphoma and built one of the largest and most successful bone marrow transplant programs in the world. The Stritch Medal recognizes outstanding accomplishments of a Loyola University graduate or faculty member who exhibits dedication to research, education, and patient care.

“It is an incredible honor to receive the Stritch Medal this year,” Dr. Stiff said. “While my name is on the medal, I … accept it on behalf of the faculty and staff of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center who each day singly and collectively hold our patients and their families as their number one priority.”

Source: Loyola University press release, November 28, 2016.


City of Hope Partners With Translational Genomics Research Institute on Precision Medicine Initiative

City of Hope and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) formed a partnership to advance precision medicine and bring scientific discoveries to patients by accelerating the speed with which scientists and medical staff convert research discoveries into cures for patients. In forming this partnership, City of Hope and TGen will develop a comprehensive “Personalized Hope” program to detect disease sooner, identify targets for prevention and treatment, and promote initiatives to close health-equity gaps.

With this alliance, both institutes will complement each other in their common areas of research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen’s researchers.

As part of the agreement, TGen will become a subsidiary of the City of Hope parent organization.

Source: City of Hope news release, December 1, 2016.


William Sellers Appointed to Faculty of the Broad Institute

William Sellers, MD, was appointed a core institute member at the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, as well as a senior advisor to the president for experimental therapeutics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). His appointment began January 1, 2017. At the Broad Institute, he will lead a research laboratory investigating cancer genomics and translation; at DFCI, he will provide advice and expertise on the institute’s experimental therapeutics program.

Dr. Sellers is rejoining the faculty of MIT, DFCI, and Harvard after spending 11 years as vice president and global head of oncology for the Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research. He joined DFCI and Harvard Medical School in 1997, becoming a Broad associate member in 2004, and leading the institute’s first foray into cancer genome sequencing.

Source: Dana Farber Cancer Institute news release, November 23, 2016.


Indiana University School of Medicine for Immunotherapy Center Receives $30 Million Donation

The Indiana University School of Medicine received a $30 million donation from alumnus Donald Brown, MD, to establish the Brown Center for Immunotherapy, which will search for new ways to deploy immune-based therapies for cancer to a larger number of patients.

Faculty at the Brown Center for Immunotherapy will also collaborate with the private sector throughout central Indiana, including leaders in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and other relevant fields.

Of the donation, $13 million will be directed to establish five endowed faculty chairs. The remainder will be invested in the necessary infrastructure and technologies and will fuel research.

Source: Indiana University press release, December 13, 2016.

Clinical Director, Adult Lymphoma Program, Senior Physician, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Dana Farber Cancer Institute

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