Fred Hutch Scientists Receive $20 Million for Leukemia Projects, and more

Remembering Alan Rabson (1926 – 2018)

Alan Rabson, MD, a long-time leader at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), passed away on July 4, 2018, at the age of 92.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Rabson graduated from the University of Rochester before attending medical school at the State University of New York.

His more than 60-year scientific career, the majority of which was spent at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCI, focused on tumor virology and cancer pathology.

After serving in the Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps during the Korean War (in a department that eventually became the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Dr. Rabson worked at the University of Michigan and the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. He joined the NIH in 1955 as a pathology anatomy resident. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited to study tumor-causing viruses in the NCI’s pathology department at the NIH Clinical Center.

Dr. Rabson spent 20 years in the pathology department at NCI and eventually was named director of the forerunner to the NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology. Then, in 1995, he was named deputy director of the institute by then-NCI Director Richard Klausner, MD. During his career, Dr. Rabson also held clinical professorships at The George Washington University and Georgetown University, and received multiple awards from the U.S. Public Health Service before officially retiring from federal service in 2015. He also was named a Scientist Emeritus at the NCI in 2015.

Dr. Rabson was remembered fondly by members of the NCI and NIH, including NCI Director Norman Sharpless, MD: “There have been few people like Alan Rabson. The stories of his remarkable history at NCI, his immense dedication to his work, and his love for his family are truly inspiring. It is no overstatement to say that we have lost a giant.”

NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, also acknowledged Dr. Rabson’s willingness to help patients with cancer find the best options for their care. “Every year since 2012, the NIH Director’s Award ceremony has included the Alan S. Rabson Award for Clinical Care,” Dr. Collins said. “It goes to a deserving employee who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to assisting patients and their families who look to the NIH for help. Al’s half-century of service stands as the epitome of personal dedication to patient care at the NIH.”

Dr. Rabson’s wife of 59 years, Ruth Kirschstein, MD, passed away in 2009 and also was a highly respected and accomplished scientist at NIH. They are survived by their son, Arnold Rabson, MD, a geneticist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Source: National Cancer Institute, July 5, 2018.

Remembering Michael Pfreundschuh (1949 – 2018)

Michael Pfreundschuh, MD, one of the leading experts in the field of lymphoma, passed away on March 5, 2018. He was 68.

Raised in Germany, Dr. Pfreundschuh graduated from Heidelberg University in 1975. He completed his clinical fellowship at the Memorial Hospital and a research fellowship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He returned to Germany as an assistant professor at Hannover Medical School in 1984 and then became an associate professor at Cologne University.

Dr. Pfreundschuh was elected director of the department of internal medicine at Saarland University Medical School in 1991. He later became a founding member and chairman of the German High Grade Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Study Group, as well as a founding member of the Academy of Cancer Immunology.

He received multiple awards in recognition for his work in hematology and oncology, including the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology in 2000 and the Warner Award for Cancer Research in 2004.

Source: LymphomaHub, March 8, 2018.

Catherine Bollard Appointed Associate Director of GW Cancer Center’s Translational Research and Innovation Program 

The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center has named Catherine Bollard, MD, associate center director for translational research and innovation. In this role, she will assist in developing a clinical program focused on bringing new cellular therapies and technologies to the adult population treated at the GW Cancer Center in Washington, DC.

In addition to this new appointment, Dr. Bollard will continue to serve as director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at the Children’s Research Institute, part of Children’s National Health System, where she is also a member of the Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Additionally, she is a professor of pediatrics and microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Dr. Bollard is an expert in immunotherapy and immunology, and is the immediate past president of the International Society of Cellular Therapy. She also is a member of the Lymphoma Steering Committee at the NCI and the Cellular Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and an associate editor for Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Source: GW Cancer Center press release, June 19, 2018.

Fred Hutch Scientists Receive $20 Million for Leukemia Projects 

The NCI awarded researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center nearly $20 million in funding to develop better therapies for patients with leukemia. This grant, which is the primary avenue of funding for Fred Hutch’s bone marrow transplantation program, will be distributed over five years.

The funding will help with three leukemia research projects:

  • Philip Greenberg, MD, will lead a team developing a genetically engineered T-cell therapy targeting the WT1 molecule for patients whose acute myeloid leukemia has returned after chemotherapy.
  • Damian Green, MD, and a research team will evaluate the safety and efficacy of an experimental, genetically engineered, BCMA-targeting T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma.
  • Co-investigators Marie Bleakley, MD, PhD, MMSc, and Marco Mielcarek, MD, will evaluate new strategies for the prevention of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), including removing GVHD-promoting immune cells from donor tissue before transplant.

Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center press release, May 31, 2018.