Father of the Bone Marrow Transplant Dies at 92

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Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, the physician who was awarded a Nobel Prize for demonstrating that a bone marrow transplantation could successfully treat patients with lymphoma and leukemia, has died in Seattle at the age of 92.

Dr. Thomas, a faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center going back to 1974, first conceived of the idea of a bone marrow transplantation as a means of treating patients with blood cancers who otherwise had nowhere else to turn back in the 1950s. But it would require several years and many unfortunate problems before he would see some success.

When Dr. Thomas began to use matched tissue typing as well as drugs to suppress the immune response, he began to overcome the criticism he was getting from the medical community, which claimed the procedure was doing nothing but hurting people.

He and his team completed the first matched sibling donor transplant for a patient with leukemia in 1969, an accomplishment followed up in 1977 by completing the first transplant from an unrelated donor.

For his work, he and Dr. Joseph Murray—a pioneer in the transplantation of kidneys—received the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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