Class of 1956
Honoring Dr. John Kersey
Cancer Center head honored for lifetime achievement
Dr. John Kersey, director, University of Minnesota Cancer Center,
received the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society
of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT). The award cites his
pioneering work in blood and marrow transplantation and his major
contributions to the current understanding of childhood leukemia.
"Dr. Kersey has been one of the leaders in our field, especially
in the translational science of human acute leukemia," said
John Wingard, ASBMT president.
In 1975, Kersey and colleagues performed the world's first successful
bone marrow transplant for lymphoma. The patient was a 16-year-old
boy with a rare form of cancer called Burkitt's lymphoma, which
at the time was a fatal disease. That patient is now a husband and
father in his 40s and doing well.
At the forefront of understanding the role of stem cell transplants
for leukemia, Kersey was among the first to recognize that leukemia
represents distinct stages of normal lymphocytes, including T-cells.
Kersey was a force behind the creation of the University of the
Minnesota Cancer Center, which was established in 1991 and designated
a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute in
Kersey earned his medical degree in 1964 at the University of Minnesota
Medical School. He completed residencies in pathology, immunology,
oncology, and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and then
joined the faculty. From 1974 to 1995, he was director of the University's
Bone Marrow Transplant Program, which trains scientists from around
the world. He is the author of nearly 500 medical journal articles.
John Kersey, M.D., is the founding director of the University of
Minnesota Cancer Center which became a National Cancer Institute-designated
comprehensive cancer center in 1998. He currently holds the Children's
Cancer Research Fund Endowed Chair in Pediatric Oncology and is
a Professor in the University of Minnesota Departments of Laboratory
Medicine/Pathology and Pediatrics.
Dr. Kersey attended Dartmouth College (B.A.), Dartmouth Medical
School (B.M.S.) and Medical School at the University of Minnesota
(M.D. 1964). His research interests began in medical school where
in 1960-61 he completed early studies of the role of the thymus
in immune system development under Drs. Carlos Martinez and Robert
John Kersey in 1956
He completed residencies in pathology and pediatrics at the University
of Minnesota and has been a faculty member since 1973.
Prior to founding the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Dr.
Kersey directed the university's Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
from 1974-1995. The program now trains scientists from around the
world and annually receives several million dollars in National
Institute of Health research grants.
As Blood and Marrow Transplant Program director, Dr. Kersey led
the team that completed the world's first successful bone marrow
transplant for lymphoma in 1975. Dr. Kersey's research accomplishments
include pioneering work in the development of some of the earliest
monoclonal antibodies for leukemia study in the early 1980s, and
the subsequent use of these antibodies for cleansing the bone marrow
of leukemia cells prior to reinfusion of a patient's own bone marrow.
Honors and Awards
- 1997-1998 President, American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation
- 1995-1996 President, International Society for Experimental
- 1988-2001 Outstanding Investigator Grant Award, National Cancer
- 1984-1988 Board of Scientific Counselors, National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society Advisory Committee
on Immunology and Immunotherapy
- 1994-1998 Councilor and Executive Committee, American Society
- 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award, Medical Alley
- 1998 Pediatric Research Foundation Memorial Honoree
- 1989 Leukemia Society of America Medical Professional of the
- 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award, American Society for Blood
and Marrow Transplantation
- 2004 Regents Outstanding Merit Award, University of Minnesota
Editorial Boards: Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation,
Blood (Associate Editor), Bone Marrow Transplantation, British
Journal of Hematology, Cancer Research (Associate Editor), Clinical
Transplantation, Experimental Hematology
|The world's first bone marrow transplant
Thirty years ago, doctors at the University of Minnesota inserted
a syringe into David Stahl, a 16-year-old suffering from advanced
lymphoma, and injected him with disease-fighting bone marrow donated
by his little brother.
The procedure (along with chemotherapy) saved the teenager's life
and was recorded in history as the world's first successful bone
marrow transplant for cancer.
Dr. John Kersey in 1978 with three members of his bone
marrow transplant team.
Stahl is one of many who have received a new lease on life at the
University, where transplant pioneers have performed the world's
first pancreas transplant, the first intestinal transplant and more
than 7,000 kidney transplants, among many other medical milestones.
Stahl's family was willing to try the experimental procedure because
his prognosis was so grim. Doctors who discovered the grapefruit-sized
tumor in his stomach said he had just a 5 percent chance of survival
using the standard treatments available in 1975 for lymphoma, which
attacks the body's immune system.
Dr. John Kersey, director of the University's Cancer Center, decided
that a transplant was Stahl's best chance. Dr. Kersey believed that
clean marrow would give his patient a new, rejuvenated immune system
capable of fighting the tumor.
First, Stahl's own diseased marrow was effectively killed off through
a course of radiation. Then the transplant from his brother, a perfect
match, was carried out. Today, bone marrow transplants like the
one performed on Stahl are a standard treatment for people with
lymphoma and many other forms of cancer, and have saved thousands
Another lasting impact of Kersey's innovative procedure was that
it spurred research into stem cells, the building blocks of the
human body. While it wasn't clearly understood at the time, stem
cells enable transplant patients to regenerate healthy tissue --
and they may hold the key for treating terminal illnesses like Parkinson's
David Stahl recovered from his own "incurable" disease
and today is a 46-year-old golfer, fisherman and father living in
Golden Valley, Minn.
Information and photos compiled from various University
of Minnesota Websites.
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