Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, a Fellow of the AACR Academy whose research identified the genetic drivers of leukemia, leading to the development of more personalized treatment for the disease, died March 1, 2020, at the age of 77.
Bloomfield was born May 15, 1942, in New York City. She earned her medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1968, then trained at the University of Minnesota in internal medicine and medical oncology before joining the faculty there. In 1989, she became professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and chief of the Division of Oncology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1997, Bloomfield joined her husband, Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD, in coming to The Ohio State University, where she directed the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). In 2003, she became senior adviser to the OSUCCC – James. She was also a Distinguished University Professor.
Bloomfield’s research focused on chromosomal abnormalities and hematologic malignancies. Her studies resulted in the identification of the Philadelphia chromosome translocation in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and similar aberrations such as inversions, deletions, and translocations involving 16q22 in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Bloomfield’s research showed that chemotherapies could be more efficacious if chosen based on the genetic characteristics of a patient’s specific cancer. In recent years, her research efforts centered on identifying new predictive biomarkers and classification techniques for AML. Her work helped establish new clinical guidelines for patients with various hematologic malignancies, including which precision medicine-based treatment approaches should be used. Her body of work led the World Health Organization to include genetics in the classification of acute leukemias.
Over the course of her career, Bloomfield contributed chapters to leading textbooks, and authored or coauthored more than 600 peer-reviewed original research articles. She was renowned for her active mentorship and leadership of women in cancer science. She was the first woman to chair the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment Board of Scientific Counselors and one of the first female NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center directors (Ohio State).
Bloomfield joined the AACR in 1974 and held numerous leadership positions over the next four decades. She served multiple terms on the editorial board of Cancer Research, and was a member of the Clinical Cancer Research editorial board from 1995 to 1997. She was a member of the AACR Board of Directors from 1995 to 1998. She also served on several awards and grant review committees. In 2004, Bloomfield was awarded the AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research. She was inducted as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2016.
Bloomfield was an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which awarded her the Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Achievement in 2006 and the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture in 2009, and named her an Oncology Luminary in 2014. Among countless other career awards, she received the Emil Frei III Pioneer Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2007 and the Henry M. Stratton Medal from the American Society of Hematology in 2008. Just last year, she received the City of Hope Inaugural Presidential Lectureship Award and the European LeukemiaNet Merit Award.
“Dr. Bloomfield’s work contributed greatly to our knowledge and understanding of leukemia, helping to transform it from a deadly cancer type to one that can often be cured,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Her pioneering research allowed doctors to treat patients with the most effective treatments for their specific disease, helping to improve survival and quality of life for many.”