UT alumnus and Nobel Prize winner Edward Donnall Thomas died of heart disease Saturday at the age of 92.
Thomas received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT in the 1940s before going on to get his doctorate from Harvard University. Thomas went on to spend his life working on cancer research along with his wife and research assistant, Dottie. Thomas won a Nobel Prize in medicine in 1990 for showing that it was possible to transplant bone marrow to save the lives of those dying from blood cancer and other diseases. Thomas’ death was announced Saturday by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where he had worked since 1974.
In a press release issued Saturday by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research, Dr. Lawrence Corey, president and director of the center, said Thomas saved many lives as a result of his work.
“The work Don Thomas did to establish marrow transplantation as a successful treatment for leukemia and other otherwise fatal diseases of the blood is responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe,” said Corey in the press release.
According to the press release, Thomas’ work is one of the greatest breakthroughs ever made in cancer research.
“Bone marrow transplantation and its sister therapy, blood stem cell transplantation, have had worldwide impact, boosting survival rates from nearly zero to up to 90 percent for some blood cancers,” the press release stated. “This year approximately 60,000 transplants will be performed worldwide.”
Corey said along with his scientific accomplishments, Thomas will be remembered for his personal qualities.
“To the world, Don Thomas will forever be known as the father of bone marrow transplantation, but to his colleagues at Fred Hutch he will be remembered as a friend, colleague, mentor and pioneer,” Corey stated in the press release.
According to the press release, Thomas was a member of 15 medical societies, including the National Academy of Sciences; the recipient of more than 35 major honors and awards, including the Gairdner Foundation International Award and the Presidential Medal of Science; and was the past president of the American Society of Hematology. He also served on the editorial boards of eight medical journals.
According to the press release, Thomas is survived by his wife, Dottie, two sons and a daughter.