Stephen J. Forman, MD
Stephen J. Forman, MD, Leader of City of Hope’s Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute and the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, recently received the 2019 DKMS Mechtild Harf Science Award in Frankfurt, Germany, in honor of his outstanding achievements in cancer immunology, hematology, stem cell transplantation, and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. The award is given by DKMS, an international nonprofit founded 27 years ago to increase the number of stem cell donors. Peter Harf, founded the organization after he lost his wife, Mechtild, to leukemia.
Dr. Forman also delivered the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture in Houston at the Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Meetings of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR). The lecture is named after the 1990 Nobel Prize recipient and father of bone marrow transplantation. It recognizes individuals who have contributed to the advancement of knowledge in bone marrow or stem cell transplantation.
The lecture focused on Dr. Forman’s and his colleagues’ research on the cytomegalovirus (CMV), which has led to the development of a CMV peptide vaccine that has produced immunity in transplant recipients. The vaccine is now being tested to determine whether it can prevent viral reactivation and disease.
Under Dr. Forman’s direction for the past 32 years, City of Hope’s Bone Marrow Transplantation Program has been recognized as the only program in the nation that has had 1-year survival above the expected rate for 14 consecutive years, according to an analysis by CIBMTR. This is especially significant because the Center traditionally manages the most difficult cases. The Program also consistently exceeds the national average in patient survivorship.
Education and Research Interests
Dr. Forman obtained his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, cum laude, from St. John’s College and his medical degree with honors from the University of Southern California. He completed part of his hematology-oncology fellowship training at City of Hope and then joined Karl G. Blume, MD, and Ernest Butler, MD, in 1978 at the Institute, which was then developing its bone marrow transplantation program. Dr. Forman began research studies focused on understanding how CMV develops in transplant recipients. His research has led to the reduction of CMV complications in transplant recipients and helped extend the potential benefits of bone marrow transplantation to wider populations, including to patients with nonrelated matched and partially matched donors, older people, and patients with HIV.
Since 2010, Dr. Forman has also directed the T-Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory, leading a team of laboratory and clinical scientists in translational research developing CAR T cells for treatment of a wide variety of hematologic malignancies, solid tumors, and HIV. City of Hope’s CAR T-Cell Program has 16 active clinical trials and nearly 300 patients treated so far.
Dr. Forman’s research is focused on combining CMV-specific T cells and a CAR against the leukemia and lymphoma biomarker CD19. The CAR T cells will be tested in patients who have previously received a transplant, to decrease the chances of relapse of CD19-positive acute lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma and also to reduce the chances for CMV disease. ■