Mar 03, 2020
ASCO and the oncology community are saddened by the passing of Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, FASCO. Dr. Bloomfield passed away on March 1, 2020. She was 77.
Dr. Bloomfield served as the William G. Pace III Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and Professor at The Ohio State University (OSU) Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). In 2006, she was named Distinguished University Professor, the highest academic honor at OSU. Within OSUCCC, she served as cancer scholar and senior adviser, and as a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program.
Dr. Bloomfield was among the first physician-scientists to investigate viable treatment options for older patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)—previously believed to be fatal—and to discover that the disease could be cured in this population using chemotherapy. She was a major contributor to the understanding of the biology of acute leukemias and the practical use of cytogenetic and molecular information in diagnosis, classification, determining prognosis, and selecting personalized curative therapeutic approaches. Her work led to the development of new treatments that enabled patients to live longer, and in many cases, to recover from certain types of blood-related cancer.
ASCO executive vice president and chief medical officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO, worked closely with Dr. Bloomfield for decades in the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB). “Early on, Clara recognized the value of collecting well-annotated leukemia specimens from patients participating in prospective clinical trials,” Dr. Schilsky recalled. “In the early 1980s, she established a companion cytogenetics protocol that became the longest-running protocol in CALGB history and enabled development of a leukemia tissue bank of unparalleled utility and value. Her studies of the cytogenetic and molecular genetic subtypes of AML led to countless insights into the heterogeneity of that disease and the development of diagnostic markers, prognostic classifications, and treatment approaches in common clinical use today.”
As a pioneer for women in medicine, Dr. Bloomfield’s biography in the National Library of Medicine highlights a few of the glass ceilings she shattered: In 1980, she attained the rank of full professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology at the University of Minnesota, the first woman to achieve that position, and in 1997, she was the third woman to lead a National Cancer Institute–designated center when she assumed directorship of OSUCCC.
Her distinguished career in research and clinical care garnered numerous awards, including election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2000, the Joseph H. Burchenal Clinical Research Award of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2004, and the Henry M. Stratton Medal of the American Society of Hematology in 2008.
ASCO twice honored Dr. Bloomfield for her groundbreaking contributions to clinical research and for her outstanding impact on the treatment of patients with cancer, first with the Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Achievement in 2006, and with the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture (ASCO’s highest scientific honor) in 2009.
“Perhaps more important than her scientific accomplishments was her approach to her work. Her outstanding scholarship, devotion to excellence, passion for mentoring and relentless pursuit of the unvarnished truth are legendary,” Dr. Schilsky said. “Few people in our field are so accomplished and so respected to be known by first name only. Clara was certainly one and we will miss her deeply.”
ASCO extends its deepest sympathies to Dr. Bloomfield’s family and her colleagues.