Dr. Frederick R. Appelbaum is a world expert in the research and treatment of blood cancers. Prior to his appointment as executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in September 2013, for two decades he served as senior vice president and director of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch.
As deputy director Appelbaum leads Fred Hutch’s strategic research partnerships with the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. He also represents the institution to the world at large, developing community relationships and programs needed to sustain the Hutch’s continued growth and impact.
Maintaining the fiscal health of Fred Hutch
Another major focus of Appelbaum’s role is maintaining the fiscal health of Fred Hutch through sustained federal funding and other revenue sources, including philanthropy and technology transfer.
One such example is working with the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute to secure continuous renewal of the Cancer Center Support Grant, which funds the infrastructure of the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, one of 41 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers nationwide. Other initiatives involve the interaction of the Hutch with its partners in support of initiatives such as a joint UW/Fred Hutch program in cancer molecular diagnostics currently under development.
Appelbaum’s responsibilities also include ensuring that the Hutch’s clinical research advances are effectively shared with the medical community, particularly in the area of cutting-edge cancer diagnostic tools that help inform the best treatment based on the genetic and molecular characteristics cancer.
Appelbaum since 1998 has served as president of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the cancer-treatment arm of Fred Hutch, UW and Seattle Children’s.
He is also former head of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, a position he held for 15 years.
A leader in the research and treatment of leukemia and other blood cancers
Appelbaum’s research focuses on the biology and treatment of leukemias, lymphomas and other blood cancers. He was the lead author of the first paper to describe the successful use of autologous bone marrow transplantation, a therapy now used in more than 30,000 patients annually. He was also a key contributor to the discovery and development of gemtuzumab ozogamicin, known commercially as Mylotarg, the first monoclonal antibody approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat acute myeloid leukemia.
Appelbaum joined the faculties at Fred Hutch and UW in 1978 after receiving his medical oncology fellowship training at the National Cancer Institute. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College (cum laude) and Tufts University School of Medicine, and he completed his internal medicine training at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
The ‘father of bone marrow transplantation’ recruited Appelbaum to Fred Hutch
Appelbaum was recruited to the Hutch by his role model, the late E. Donnall Thomas, M.D., the “father of bone marrow transplantation.” Thomas, director emeritus of the Clinical Research Division, in 1990 received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for pioneering the lifesaving procedure, which, Appelbaum estimates, has been used in more than 1 million patients worldwide.
After completing his medical school and house officer training, while doing transplantation research at the NCI, Appelbaum optimized methods for cryopreservation of human bone marrow and led the aforementioned first clinical trial that demonstrated the utility of autologous (self-to-self) marrow transplantation.
Appelbaum joined Thomas and colleagues at the Hutch in the late ‘70s and led the trials that defined the role of transplantation in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplasia and malignant lymphoma. He continues to study the biology of AML and mechanisms of drug resistance.
A national leader in the conduct of clinical trials
Beyond his own research, Appelbaum has been a national leader in the conduct of clinical trials. In 1980, as part of the Southwest Oncology Group, a cancer research cooperative, he formed the first multi-center bone marrow transplant clinical trials group. This concept eventually evolved into the federally funded Bone Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network, of which he is chair-elect. For more than 20 years Appelbaum served as chair of the SWOG Leukemia Committee, which designs and conducts clinical trials for leukemia.
Appelbaum is past chair of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and has served on the boards of a number of scientific societies, including the American Society of Hematology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT). Currently he serves on the NCI Leukemia Steering Committee and on the advisory committees of many organizations, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Yale Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, University of Michigan Cancer Center, University of California San Francisco Cancer Center and the AACR Stand Up to Cancer Scientific Advisory Committee.
His honors and awards include election to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, the ASCO Statesman Award and the ASBMT’s E.D. Thomas Lecture and Award.