Remembering Elihu “Eli” Estey, Thomas Waldmann, and more

Elihu (Eli) Estey, MD

Remembering Elihu (Eli) Estey (1946 – 2021)

Renowned hematologist Elihu (Eli) Estey, MD, died suddenly on October 11, 2021, at the age of 75.

After completing his residency at the New York University and Bellevue Medical Center, Dr. Estey was a fellow and assistant professor in the department of developmental therapeutics at MD Anderson. He went on to spend two years on the investigational drug branch of the division of cancer treatment at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) before returning to MD Anderson as professor and chief of the section of acute leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes in the department of leukemia. In 2008, Dr. Estey joined the University of Washington, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Fred Hutch as professor of hematology/medicine and leader of the leukemia program.

Dr. Estey published 675 peer-reviewed articles and 100 invited papers, editorials, and letters to the editor. His research focused on acute myeloid leukemia therapeutics and decision-making, and he developed a comprehensive patient database that often served as the basis for his studies.

“He was a rigorous clinical scientist, always demanding that of others, a wonderful citizen of academic medicine, and a tremendous friend,” said Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, Clement A. Finch professor of medicine and head of the division of hematology at the University of Washington.

Dr. Estey is survived by his wife, Cindy, and two children.

Thomas Waldmann, MD

Remembering Thomas Waldmann (1930 – 2021)

On September 25, 2021, immunologist Thomas A. Waldmann, MD, died at the age of 91.

Dr. Waldmann served as chief emeritus of the NCI Lymphoid Malignancies Branch and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Distinguished Investigator. His career at the NCI spanned more than 60 years and led to discoveries that advanced the fields of cancer, autoimmune disease, and organ transplantation.

He published more than 880 papers and delivered more than 100 honorary lectures or keynote addresses, including the Henry M. Stratton Lecture at the 1977 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting.

“His greatest legacy may be the vast number of outstanding scientists in their own right who owe their success at least in part to Tom’s mentoring,” said Jay A. Berzofsky, MD, PhD, chief of the NCI Vaccine Branch, and a mentee of Dr. Waldmann for nearly 28 years. “He was an encyclopedia of knowledge and constantly came up with valuable insights, bringing diverse sources of knowledge to bear on any question. All of us in the branch improved our science as well as our presentations because of Tom’s mentoring. He was a great friend, collaborator, and father-figure to his entire scientific family. We will all miss him tremendously.”

Dr. Waldmann is predeceased by his wife of 62 years, Katharine. He is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.

Markus Müschen, MD, PhD

Markus Müschen Receives NCI Outstanding Investigator Award

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has recognized Markus Müschen, MD, PhD, with the Outstanding Investigator Award. The award provides more than $7 million in cancer research funding over seven years.

“I am very grateful for this award, which will support our efforts to advance our understanding of the negative mechanisms in the immune system and how these mechanisms can be leveraged for the treatment of refractory leukemias and lymphomas,” said Dr. Müschen. “Our research targets a unique vulnerability of B-cell-derived cancers. Only B-cells can produce harmful autoantibodies, which makes them sensitive to therapeutics that target negative selection. The focus on negative selection avoids the often-serious side effects of aggressive chemotherapy.”

Dr. Müschen is director of the Center of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, Arthur H. and Isabel Bunker Professor of Hematology, and professor of immunobiology at Yale Cancer Center. His research focuses on leveraging the negative selection mechanisms of the immune system for the treatment of drug-resistant leukemia and lymphoma.

Source: Yale School of Medicine press release, October 6, 2021.

NIH Grants $10.5M to Delaware Comprehensive Sickle Cell Research Program

The NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence has awarded $10.5 million to research projects focused on children and young adults with sickle cell disease (SCD). The five-year grant will support the Delaware Comprehensive Sickle Cell Research Program at Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, Delaware.

This award builds on a previous NIH grant that allowed investigators at Nemours to enroll more than 800 participants in SCD clinical trials.

Two of the research projects funded by the grant will investigate barriers to care including racism, disease stigma, knowledge about the disease, and patients’ ability to manage symptoms on their own, and will test strategies for overcoming these obstacles. One strategy includes a peer-mediated group intervention for adults with SCD that will focus on racism and stigma in chronic pain management. “One reason that sickle cell care has struggled relative to other pediatric diseases is in part because pain is one of its top symptoms, which can elicit a bias related to opioid seeking,” said Anders Kolb, MD, director of the Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, and principal investigator of the project.

Other projects funded by the NIH grant will explore patient and physician perceptions of newborn screening for SCD, incorporate newborn screening results and sickle cell trait carrier status into EHRs, and evaluate eye exams as a noninvasive option to test for serious SCD complications such as strokes.

Source: Sickle Cell Disease News, September 23, 2021.