Dr. Phil Greenberg named 2018 Leader in Health Care

Seattle Business Magazine honors cancer immunotherapy pioneer for his work on T-cell therapy
Dr. Phil Greenberg addresses the audience at Seattle Business Magazine's Leaders in Health Care Awards March 1.
“It’s really a very remarkable thing to realize that we can actually do this [T-cell therapy] now,” Dr. Phil Greenberg said in his acceptance speech for the Gold Award for Achievement in Medical Research. “We’ve always said in the laboratory that you should shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you wind up among the stars.” Photo courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center immunotherapy pioneer Dr. Phil Greenberg was honored last night with a Gold Award for Achievement in Medical Research at Seattle Business Magazine’s 2018 Leaders in Health Care Awards at Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. A panel of expert judges chose honorees in 10 categories based on their work to improve health care in the state.

Greenberg, head of the Hutch’s Program in Immunology, is developing new methods to train patients’ T cells to be effective and precise cancer killers. His work over the decades has been foundational for the development of the field. More than 40 of his former trainees now lead their own labs around the world, and several cell products developed in his lab have shown promise against different cancers in clinical trials.

“It’s really a very remarkable thing to realize that we can actually do this [T-cell therapy] in people now,” Greenberg said in his acceptance speech. “We’ve always said in the laboratory that you should shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you wind up among the stars.”

Former Greenberg Lab trainee and cancer immunotherapy expert Dr. Mike Jensen won a Silver Award for Achievement in Medical Research. Jensen is director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and holds a clinical faculty position at the Hutch.

This is the second year in a row the judging panel has awarded the gold for Achievement in Medical Research to a Hutch scientist; the late lymphoma physician-scientist Dr. Oliver Press won last year.

Greenberg credited the late Hutch scientists Drs. E. Donnall Thomas and Alex Fefer for recruiting him to work in Seattle and for influencing his development as a scientist. He also thanked all the members of his laboratory for their hard work throughout the difficult challenges that research brings.

“Research is a hard road. Answers don’t come easy,” Greenberg said. “But when you get them, it’s remarkable. And there’s nothing more gratifying than a strategy or a technology that you can see brought to patients that change their lives, that cure diseases.

“We’re getting close to that now. We’ve done it in some diseases. And with our increased understanding and access to new technologies it can only get better. I think the field of immunotherapy is exploding right now and it’s a great joy to be a part of the foundation of that.”

Among the 2018 honorees were several others from Fred Hutch’s consortium partners: Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Medical Director Dr. F. Marc Stewart won a Silver Award in the “Outstanding Medical Director or Chief Medical Officer” category; UW Physicians President Dr. Timothy Dellit won a Gold Award in the “Outstanding Medical Group Executive” category; and Dr. Carlos Pellegrini, chief medical officer of UW Medicine and vice president for Medical Affairs at UW, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

— Josh Belzman contributed reporting to this article.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

Susan Keown was a staff editor and writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center from 2014-2022 who has written about health and research topics for a variety of research institutions. Find her on Twitter @sejkeown.

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