Physician-scientist Dr. Bruce Clurman named executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutch

Clurman will focus on team science, interdisciplinary collaboration in pursuit of new cures, said President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland
Dr. Bruce Clurman
Dr. Bruce Clurman Fred Hutch News Service

SEATTLE — Oct. 18, 2016 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced the appointment of Dr. Bruce Clurman to serve as its executive vice president and deputy director, effective Nov. 1. In his 25th year as a physician and researcher working at Fred Hutch, Clurman will step into the leadership position vacated by outgoing Executive Vice President and Deputy Director Dr. Mark Groudine, who has served in those roles for 11 and 19 years, respectively. Groudine will continue to lead his basic research laboratory and will serve as special advisor to the director’s office. Clurman will work alongside Fred Hutch’s other executive vice president and deputy director, Dr. Fred Appelbaum, who has held that position since 2013. Clurman will also serve on the board of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical care partner.

The leadership change comes at a pivotal moment, said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch, one that is largely centered around the need to boost the center’s ability to conduct team science and collaborate more effectively across scientific disciplines. Clurman has been instrumental in orchestrating Fred Hutch’s recently completed five-year strategic plan, Gilliland said. He has also led coordination and planning for Fred Hutch’s Integrated Research Centers, new research groups underway that will unite scientists and clinicians from diverse focus areas to attack major problems facing cancer and other diseases.

“We recognize that we need to have more team-oriented science to address some of the biggest problems in the biology and therapy of human disease,” Gilliland said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who we could bring in, either internally or externally, that can do what Bruce is able to do, because of the history that he has here and the scientific credibility that he has. He’s respected across all of our different, very broadly-based disciplines of science.”

The announcement follows those of other recent hires at the Hutch. Last Monday, Dr. Nancy Davidson, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, was announced as the incoming director of the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division and president and executive director of SCCA. She will also be professor and head of the Division of Medical Oncology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Also last week, Fred Hutch immunotherapy researcher Dr. David Maloney was announced as the first medical director for cellular immunotherapy at Fred Hutch and the SCCA’s new Immunotherapy Clinic.

Clurman’s career at Fred Hutch has involved working across disciplines as both a transplantation physician, seeing patients with blood cancers at SCCA, and as a basic scientist, delving deep into the molecular cascade of steps that allows cancerous cells to grow and divide unchecked.

“As I started thinking about ways to extend myself beyond my own work, it was just natural for me to want to put that effort and energy here, because I couldn’t imagine wanting to work like this anywhere else,” Clurman said. “Gary has an incredibly bold vision which I’m completely aligned with and I think that people are really behind, but while we want to continue to support fundamental science, we also need to change the way we do some of our work to accomplish that. The opportunities are unprecedented but there’s also an urgency to accelerate our progress.”

‘An unbelievable mentor and role model’

Clurman will be filling the shoes of Groudine, the researcher who helped him launch his career at Fred Hutch and who has been a valued mentor ever since, Clurman said. Clurman joined Fred Hutch in 1991 as a senior fellow in oncology working in Groudine’s lab, after completing an M.D./Ph.D. program at Cornell University Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and internal medicine training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

 “{Groudine] has been an unbelievable mentor and role model for me,” Clurman said. “He’s shown me how to lead by respecting people and by being very straightforward and transparent.”

Groudine’s exemplary leadership is by no means unique to his relationship with his trainee, Gilliland said. It’s embedded in how the biologist has guided Fred Hutch in his decades of leadership, first as director of the Basic Sciences Division, from 1995 to 2005, and as deputy director since 1997 and as executive vice president of the Hutch since 2005. Groudine also served as acting president and director of the Hutch during two interim periods, in 2010 and, most recently, in 2014, before Gilliland was appointed.

“There’s nothing about him that has to do with power, it’s about what’s the best for the Hutch,” Gilliland said. “In some ways, for me, he’s the heart and soul of the Hutch.”

“I am very pleased that Bruce has taken on this responsibility, and I will do whatever I can to make sure that he is successful,” said Groudine. “I would not have considered stepping down as deputy director if I did not believe the center is in great hands — those of Bruce, Gary and the rest of the leadership team.”

Defining experiences

Like many other researchers at the Hutch, Clurman has bridged the lab bench and the clinic for his whole career. Both aspects of his job have been integral in how he approaches cancer research and treatment, he said. When he was first looking for training opportunities in the early 1990s, the Hutch stood out because of its stellar reputation in bone marrow transplantation, Clurman’s clinical area of expertise.

When he joined Groudine’s lab for his fellowship, though, he found that beyond the transplantation program itself, the entire center fostered respectful collaboration between research and clinical practice.

Even after 20 years as an attending transplant physician, Clurman still speaks of transplantation — a technique first developed at Fred Hutch in the 1970s — with reverence.

“Transplant’s a remarkable area of oncology,” he said. “You have opportunities to cure people of a disease that’s otherwise not curable.”

Clurman’s numerous awards, honors and appointments include: The American Society of Clinical Investigation, W.M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research, National Cancer Institute’s NIH K08 Career Development Award, Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholar in Translational Medicine and Jose Carreras/E. Donnall Thomas Endowed Chair for Cancer Research at Fred Hutch.

He received his medical degree and Ph.D. in viral oncology from Cornell University Medical College and his undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia.

Claire Hudson
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