Bertrand Coiffier, MD, PhD
Internationally renowned lymphoma expert Bertrand Coiffier, MD, PhD, died on January 2, 2019. He was 71. Dr. Coiffier published more than 500 papers and book chapters that garnered more than 50,000 literature citations, placing him among the top 1% of the most influential researchers globally. His work directly affected the progress made over the past 40 years in lymphoma treatment, and his tireless research efforts have led to practice-changing therapies that have saved countless lives.
In a landmark study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, Dr. Coiffier was the first to describe the synergy of the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab with the CHOP regimen (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, prednisone) in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He was also behind numerous drug approvals worldwide, helping establish novel treatment options for patients with lymphoma.
A Distinguished Researcher and Clinician
Dr. Coiffier was born on March 26, 1947. He earned his MD and PhD degrees at the University of Lyon, France, where he was also certified in hematology and medical oncology before he became Professor of Hematology in 1989.
From the beginning of his career, Dr. Coiffier dedicated himself to developing novel clinical research protocols at the Centre Hospitalier Lyon, as well as in the national and international arena. These projects began in 1984 with the creation of the Adult Lymphoma Study Group (GELA).
As a visionary who understood the need for scrupulous scientific methodology, he paid attention to the quality of clinical data, the rigor of statistical analysis, and the need for translational research based on major clinical trials. From the LNH-80 protocol (the ACVBP regimen [doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vindesine, bleomycin, prednisone] still used today by some centers) to the combination of the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab with CHOP, his work would pave the way for the immunochemotherapy combinations to revolutionize the treatment of lymphomas.
A Global Oncologist
Dr. Coiffier spearheaded numerous international collaborations and played a leading role in the creation of international prognostic indices in different types of lymphoma, identifying groups of patients with similar prognoses but distinct medical needs. These achievements earned him international recognition, which enhanced the research capabilities of his colleagues at the Centre Hospitalier Lyon as well as the entire GELA group.
Dr. Coiffier was the founding Chair of the Lymphoma Hub, a nonprofit organization based in Thames Ditton, England. He had also recently created and served as President of the European Lymphoma Institute, a working party for lymphoproliferative disorders. He was a Lymphoma Medical Representative of the Working Committee of the Lymphoma Coalition, Senior Board Member of Healthology, and former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Leukemia Research.
In 2008, Dr. Coiffier was awarded the Kaplan Lecture and San Salvatore Prize in Lugano. In 2011, he was the winner of the John Ultmann Award for outstanding contributions to the treatment of lymphoma.
Gilles Salles, MD, PhD, Head of the Hematology Department of the South Lyon Hospital Complex in France, told The ASCO Post:
Widely invested with his patients, endowed with an exceptional power of work, and demanding toward himself, Bertrand was also a faithful friend for us, of great humility and an exemplary simplicity in his human, professional, and social relations. His determination, courage, and lucidity in the years of his illness force our admiration. We are losing a visionary colleague and a friend, and we share our grief with those who worked with him, his attentive wife Christiane, and his children and grandchildren. And we will strive to continue on the path he traced.
Peter Mollee, MD, Associate Professor, University of Queensland Medical School, Australia, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Australasian Leukaemia & Lymphoma Group (ALLG), noted:
Professor Coiffier’s association with the ALLG goes back to 1999, when he visited Australia and gave a truly memorable dinner presentation at a St. -Kilda restaurant as part of the ALLG Scientific Meeting. At that time, rituximab was a relative newcomer on the lymphoma agenda, and he provided us with inspiring information about this new treatment modality. Professor Coiffier was a personal friend to numerous Australian and New Zealand hematologists, and he warmly welcomed many to work under his mentorship at the University of Lyon, where he continued to foster a drive for research excellence. He will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by the global hematology community. ■