I’ve always been fascinated by the science of bone marrow transplantation — the fact that stem cells could take hold in someone and aid the functioning of their blood cells for a lifetime. During medical school in Germany, I often heard about Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who won a Nobel Prize for developing the bone marrow transplant, and other people at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In 1992, I was fortunate enough to start a fellowship there; I got to meet all those people I’d been hearing about, and it was an amazing experience! Studying with Dr. Rainer Storb, I wanted to better understand stem cells so we could fix the diseases that affect them — and that’s been the center of my research ever since.
Charlie Burgess is a man I will never forget. One Fourth of July, he was celebrating with family and friends when they noticed that he seemed disoriented. At the ER, he found out he had a glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. His prognosis was poor, but he really wanted to fight, and not just for himself, but for his family: his wife and his daughter, who was still in high school. Charlie became the first patient on our gene therapy trial for glioblastomas. He responded really well, surviving for several years. He got to see his daughter graduate from college, which was huge. Throughout the remainder of his life, we stayed close. It was so rewarding to be able to help him.
Area of Clinical Practice
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, gene therapy, graft-versus-host disease, cellular immunotherapy
I am a medical oncologist who specializes in stem cell and bone marrow transplantation for patients with blood cancers. In 2018, I was awarded the Stephanus Family Endowed Chair for Cell and Gene Therapy at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I have extensive experience training students and postdoctoral fellows, having mentored more than 50 trainees over the past 20 years.
My research investigates how stem cells can be extracted from patients, manipulated at a genetic level and then delivered back to them to treat diseases ranging from cancers to genetic conditions like sickle cell disease to infections like HIV. Currently, I am sponsoring four clinical gene therapy studies; one of these studies is the first of its kind to use this stem-cell approach to fix a gene involved with Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder that often leads to leukemia and other cancers. In addition to caring for patients and conducting research, I also serve as chair of the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy’s Stem Cell Committee and the American Society of Hematology’s Stem Cell Committee.
University of Ulm
Stanford University; University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Research Center
Medical Oncology, 1997; Internal Medicine, 1993, American Board of Internal Medicine
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