In Remembrance of Dr. E. Donnall Thomas

In Remembrance of Dr. E. Donnall Thomas

Remembering Dr. E. Donnall Thomas - 1920-2012 - 1990 Nobel Laureate - Father of Bone Marrow Transplantation

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas forever changed the world of cancer treatment when he pioneered bone marrow transplantation, a breakthrough that earned him the 1990 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. But Thomas’s most powerful legacy is measured in the number of lives saved every year thanks to his groundbreaking work.

When Thomas came to Seattle in 1963, his team at the University of Washington sought to do what others were convinced would never work: cure leukemia and other blood cancers by using radiation and chemotherapy to destroy a patient’s diseased bone marrow, and then rescuing the patient by transplanting healthy marrow. The goal was to establish a new, cancer-free blood and immune system. More >  

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas slideshow

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas in his lab

Shortly after Fred Hutch opened in 1975 it became Dr. Thomas’ permanent home. 'Fred Hutch' is where he developed a new technique for transplanting human bone marrow destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and radiation.

Dr. Don Thomas with wife and research partner Dottie

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas and wife and research partner Dottie

The couple  in their apartment in Boston in 1941 during Dr. Thomas’ first year at Harvard University medical school. Dottie is knitting socks for the Red Cross to give to soldiers during WWII.

Thomas receiving the Nobel Prize 1990

Nobel Prize ceremony 1990

In 1990, for his pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation, Dr. Thomas accepted the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology along with Dr. Joseph Murray. Dr. Thomas concluded his remarks during the acceptance ceremony saying: “I echo the sentiments of many previous Nobel laureates when I say that the success we celebrate today was made possible by the work of many others in this and in related fields.”

Dr. Don and Dottie Thomas at the 2005 patient reunion

photo by Jim Linna

2005 patient reunion

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas and his wife and research partner, Dottie Thomas, at a 2005 patient reunion attended by former transplant patients from throughout the world. Longtime colleagues have quipped that if Thomas is the father of bone marrow transplantation, then Dottie is certainly its mother.

Dr. Thomas outside the Thomas building on the Hutchinson Center campus

photo by Susie Fitzhugh

Dr. Thomas on the Hutch campus in 2007

Seated in the Fred Hutch courtyard outside the building that bears his name, Dr. Thomas made many lasting contributions to science with his lifesaving work. He officially retired in 2002 but continued his close ties to the Hutch.