Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, first winner of José Carreras / E. Donnall Thomas Chair Award
In a ceremony April 23, in Pelton Auditorium (Seattle, USA), Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem accepted the first Chair José Carreras / E. Donnall Thomas to investigate about leukemia.
Photo: Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, the first recipient of the José Carreras/E. Donnall Thomas Endowed Chair for Leukemia Research, stands with his wife, Dr. Dana Swenson, and Prof. E. Donnall Thomas, Medicine Nobel Laureate and original owner of the chair. Photo by Dean Forbes.
Internationally known tenor and cancer survivor José Carreras congratulated Kiem in a surprise address, videotaped in Barcelona. "His talent and determination will make the chair a very productive source of progress in aid of the patients," Carreras said. "As a grateful former patient of the Hutch and of Professor Thomas, I am very happy this project is now a reality."
In 1987 Carreras, who was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, traveled to the Fred Hutchinson’s Center and received a successful bone-marrow transplant. The following year, already recovered, he enlisted the help of noted physicians and scientists to create the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation in Spain. The U.S. based Friends of José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation endowed the chair in honor of both Carreras and Thomas.
At the chair award ceremony, the doctors compared Kiem's efforts in gene therapy to Prof. Thomas' efforts in bone-marrow transplantation. Kiem has described techniques to improve stem cell gene transfer and the expansion of blood-forming stem cells to speed up the process of engraftment after transplantation—a strategy that also holds promise for breaking down obstacles to cord-blood transplants. He has described techniques to protect blood cells from chemotherapy-induced myelosuppression, which may allow for more effective and less toxic chemotherapy and transplantation protocols for patients with certain cancers. In addition, he is pioneering the development of new methods for gene repair and the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells.