U-M bone marrow transplant expert receives Doris Duke Charitable Foundation award

December 16, 2002

ANN ARBOR, MI - James L.M. Ferrara, M.D., Director of the University of Michigan Health System's Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, is the recipient of the prestigious 2002 Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award in the field of oncology. This is a highly competitive national award in which Ferrara was selected from a field of distinguished candidates in translational cancer research; he is one of only five scientists to receive the award this year.

"Dr. Ferrara has distinguished himself as an expert in the important area of bone marrow transplantation, both in research and clinical care delivery. He has helped propel our bone marrow transplant unit into one of the finest units of its kind in the United States by taking laboratory findings and translating them into improved treatments for our patients. He is richly deserving of this recognition," says Allen S. Lichter, M.D., dean of the U-M Medical School and Newman Family Professor of Radiation Oncology.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funded only five such awards in four disease categories: cancer, AIDS, cardiovascular diseases, or sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders. The award includes up to $1.5 million in research funds over the next five to seven years to support Ferrara's ongoing laboratory research for the development of improved therapeutic strategies for prevention and treatment of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), as well as support of career development in young physician-investigators.

Ferrara, who is a professor in the U-M Medical School's Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases and Internal Medicine Departments, focuses his research on GVHD - a common and deadly complication of bone marrow transplants used to treat leukemia and other cancers. Instead of the patient's body rejecting a donated organ, as occurs in an organ transplant, the donated bone marrow, called the graft, rejects cells in the host or patient.

By identifying all the complex biochemical and cellular interactions involved in GVHD, Ferrara hopes to find ways to help immune system cells in donated bone marrow kill the patient's leukemia cells without risking the toxic effects of graft-versus-host-disease. The new clinical research project this award will fund is called "Novel Strategies to Improve Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation."

"Dr. Ferrara has an outstanding record of achievement in clinical research, including advances in our understanding of the graft-versus-host rejection process following bone marrow transplantation. He also is deeply committed to mentoring our young investigators. I can't think of a more deserving individual for this prestigious award," said Max Wicha, M.D., director, U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and Distinguished Professor of Oncology.
The Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award is specifically intended to support physician-scientists who are recognized leaders in their fields and who have well-established clinical research programs with direct links to basic research. While the monetary award is used to support translational clinical research, at least $100,000 per year must be used to train and mentor junior physician-scientists at the medical student level and the clinical research fellow level, and to encourage cross-disciplinary interactions between clinical investigators and basic researchers at the awardee's institution and/or in the broader research community.

Additional Contact:
Sally Pobojewski, pobo@umich.edu

University of Michigan Health System

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