Dr. Jerry Radich, a pioneering leukemia researcher and expert in molecular genetics, is the inaugural recipient of the Kurt Enslein Endowed Chair at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
John and Christine Enslein presented the chair to Radich Aug. 13 during a luncheon at Fred Hutch. The ceremony highlighted the Ensleins’ long history of support to Fred Hutch — giving that is deeply personal for the family, noted President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland.
In December 1980, John was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML. His father, Kurt, started researching CML treatments. He soon learned about Fred Hutch and its bone marrow transplantation program, which was then in its infancy. In April 1982 John received a bone marrow transplant at Fred Hutch and made a complete recovery.
In honor of that lifesaving care, the Ensleins have made significant investments in Fred Hutch’s transplantation and cord blood research. They have also served on the Hutch’s Board of Ambassadors and taken part in Obliteride and other events.
“Creating this new endowed chair is our way of paying back, considering the life-changing — and lifesaving — impact the Hutch has had on our lives,” said John Enslein.
Their new endowed chair, which pays tribute to Kurt, will help advance Radich’s research. Radich studies genes and other molecules that signal treatment response, progression and relapse in leukemia patients. He specializes in developing methods to improve the detection and treatment of chronic and acute myeloid leukemias.
“I am extremely grateful to the Ensleins for this fabulous gift to the Center and to leukemia patients,” Radich said. “It is hard to get NIH funding for CML these days, and this gift will allow us to work on new ideas to further improve CML outcomes, both here and in low-resource areas.”
Radich developed a test for detecting rare leukemia cells in patients in remission to determine who is likely to relapse or to benefit from new targeted therapies. In addition to helping physicians tailor each patient’s care, the test promises to drastically reduce the duration and cost of clinical trials. Radich also helped develop a low-cost, paper-based method to diagnose CML in low-income countries.
Radich’s team was the first to map the genetic changes that occur during CML progression. Radich hopes this discovery will aid physicians in customizing treatment to a patient’s disease stage and spur development of potential new drugs. Now, he is extending this research to other types of leukemia.