Chairman of DKMS Medical Council honored with E. Donnall Thomas Award
DKMS Medical Council Chairman and DKMS Foundation Board Vice Chairman, Prof. Marcel R.M. van den Brink, has been honored by the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) with the E. Donnall Thomas Award. The award was presented at the annual Tandem Meetings on Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, hosted April 23-26 by ASTCT and the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR).
Physician-scientist Marcel van den Brink is Head of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is a leading oncologist with extensive experience in both laboratory and clinical research. His research focuses on strategies to improve allogeneic blood stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy. In recent years, Dr. van den Brink and his colleagues have been at the forefront of investigating the importance of the gut microbiome in cancer therapies such as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
His E. Donnall Thomas lecture focused on his latest data regarding the role of the gut microbiome in patients undergoing an allogeneic blood stem cell transplantation or CD19-targeted CAR-T cell therapy. CAR-T cell therapy is a relatively new form of therapy but it has already fundamentally changed the treatment options for patients suffering from certain types of leukemia and lymphoma. Unfortunately, not all patients who receive the treatment respond well: Up to 60% of patients relapse and up to 80% experience toxicity reactions. Interestingly, in a paper published March 14, 2022, in Nature Medicine, Dr. van den Brink's research team and collaborators show that the gut microbiome correlates with therapy response and toxicity. They report increased toxicity and poorer survival in patients treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics within four weeks prior to treatment. In addition, they identified bacterial species associated with either high or low response rates to therapy.
"It is a great honor for me to receive this award named after Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who is widely considered as the father of bone marrow transplantation, and to be acknowledged by ASTCT in this way. I accept this award with gratitude, of course also on behalf of all my colleagues whose hard work has contributed to our discoveries," says Dr. van den Brink. "There may be an opportunity to positively influence the course of cancer therapies and patient outcomes by targeting the microbiome in the future. I hope that this way we can eventually help more cancer patients in need. In any case, more preclinical and clinical studies are needed to further explore this issue.”
"I am always impressed by the research of our Medical Council members,” says Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global Chief Executive Officer at DKMS. “Congratulations to Marcel on receiving this prestigious award and his outstanding achievements in this field. I am very eager to see what further studies he and his colleagues will plan and conduct to increase the chances of cure for patients suffering from blood cancers and other blood diseases. I wish him continued success!”
The lectureship and the award are named after Nobel Laureate E. Donnall Thomas who earned the Nobel Prize in 1990 for establishing bone marrow transplantation as a successful treatment for blood cancers and other blood disorders. The award is intended to recognize exemplary research achievements in bone marrow transplantation and cell therapy that have led to a paradigm shift or a significant discovery in the field.