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Spotlight on Fred Appelbaum

Leadership for Scientific Discovery

Fred Appelbaum, Executive Vice President

Dr. Frederick R. Appelbaum is a world expert in the research and treatment of blood cancers and an executive vice president of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

In his current role, Appelbaum serves as the associate director for clinical research for the Fred Hutch/University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Cancer Consortium, setting the vision and standards for clinical research across this National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. In addition, Appelbaum oversees faculty affairs, including appointments, promotions, reviews and other faculty-related policies and processes.

For nearly 10 years, Appelbaum served as deputy director of the center in addition to his role as executive vice president. Before that, for two decades he was the senior vice president and director of the Clinical Research Division and the founding president and CEO of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Dr. Fred Appelbaum speaks during the Hansen Symposium in the Pelton Auditorium at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington on July 13, 2018.
Dr. Fred Appelbaum speaks during the Hansen Symposium in the Pelton Auditorium at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, on July 13, 2018. Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

A leader in the research and treatment of leukemia and other blood cancers, Appelbaum’s research focuses on the biology and treatment of leukemias, lymphomas and other blood cancers. He was the lead author of the first paper to describe the successful use of autologous bone marrow transplantation, a therapy now used in more than 30,000 patients annually. He was also a key contributor to the discovery and development of gemtuzumab ozogamicin, known commercially as Mylotarg, the first antibody-drug conjugate ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (There are now more than a dozen antibody-drug conjugates approved, and hundreds in the pipeline.)

At Fred Hutch, Appelbaum led the trials that defined the role of transplantation in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplasia and malignant lymphoma. He continues to study the biology of AML and mechanisms of drug resistance.

Looking back on Fred Hutch's decades of research on transplantation, Appelbaum said in a 2018 story: “It is gratifying that when we compare survival rates after transplantation at our institution over each decade … cure rates have continued to improve. Many different investigators have contributed to this work."

Beyond his own research, Appelbaum has been a national leader in the conduct of clinical trials. In 1980, as part of SWOG Cancer Research Network, he formed the first multicenter bone marrow transplant clinical trials group. This concept eventually evolved into the federally funded Bone Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network, which he has chaired. For more than 20 years Appelbaum served as chair of the SWOG Leukemia Committee, which designs and conducts clinical trials for leukemia.

Appelbaum is past chair of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and has served on the boards of a number of scientific societies. He has also served on the NCI Leukemia Steering Committee and on the advisory committees of many organizations.

Appelbaum joined the faculties at Fred Hutch and UW in 1978 after receiving his medical oncology fellowship training at the NCI. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College (cum laude) and Tufts University School of Medicine, and he completed his internal medicine training at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

He holds the Metcalfe Family/Frederick Appelbaum Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Fred Hutch. Other honors and awards include election to the Institute of Medicine and Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Statesman Award and the E.D. Thomas Lecture and Award of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (now the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy).
 

— updated June 2, 2022

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