Leukemia research leader Dr. Fred Appelbaum named ‘Giant of Cancer Care’

Physician-scientist and Hutch VP honored for contributions to research, patient care
Photo portrait of Fred Appelbaum
Dr. Fred Appelbaum is a leukemia researcher and the executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutch. Photo by Matt Hagen for Fred Hutch

Dr. Fred Appelbaum of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was named one of 15 “Giants of Cancer Care” for his contributions to advancing leukemia research and care. The awards were announced today by oncology publication OncLive.

Appelbaum, who currently serves as Fred Hutch’s executive vice president and deputy director, studies the biology and treatment of leukemia and cares for patients with this and related diseases. He was one of the key members of the Fred Hutch team that pioneered bone marrow transplantation as a curative therapy for people with diseases of the blood and bone marrow, like leukemia.

He has also played a lead role in the development of other important new therapies for these cancers, such as the world’s first so-called “magic bullet” drug, which targets acute myeloid leukemia cells. Appelbaum continues to lead cutting-edge leukemia research as the head of the organization’s multi-investigator research program to improve care for people with blood cancers, which has been continuously federally funded for more than four decades.

“I am, of course, deeply honored by this award, but the credit really should go to my amazing colleagues and the environment we have created here at the Hutch,” Appelbaum said.

Among his other achievements, Appelbaum is also a national leader in clinical trials for blood cancers. He formed the first multi-institutional clinical trials group in bone marrow transplantation and led a committee that oversees the design and conduct of major national clinical trials in leukemia. He was also president of the Hutch’s clinical-care partner organization, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, for 18 years and led UW Medicine’s Division of Medical Oncology for 15 years.

Appelbaum’s fellow 2019 “Giant of Cancer Care” awardees, who hail from around the world, have made contributions in a range of cancer types and other relevant areas such as diagnosis, palliative care and community outreach. Nominated by their oncology peers, finalists in each category were selected by a seven-member advisory board of leading oncologists and voted on by a selection committee of more than 100 oncologists. The award was established in 2013 and “celebrates the physicians who have made significant contributions to the cure and treatment of those living with cancer,” said an OncLive press release.

“Each inductee has worked hard to propel the field of oncology forward through groundbreaking and innovative contributions in cancer treatment, diagnosis and research,” said Michael J. Hennessy Jr., president of MJH Associates, parent company of OncLive, in the release.

The winners will be celebrated in a reception on May 30 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

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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