Elaine S. Jaffe, MD
As a leading pathologist, Elaine S. Jaffe, MD, of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that the field of lymphoma research is rapidly progressing and new windows are constantly opening as "we live in a genomic era with the ability to sequence the entire genome of an individual tumor."
Dr. Jaffe studied medicine at Cornell University and received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania. As a medical student, she found the study of pathology intriguing since it provided the groundwork for understanding all disease states. After an internship at Georgetown University, Dr. Jaffe joined the NCI in 1970 as a resident in anatomic pathology where she focused on hematopathology. When reflecting on what originally drew her to the field of lymphoma, she recounted that "the 1970s was a time when first insights into the normal immune system and its complexity were being made while new techniques for identifying different types of lymphocytes (T-cells and B-cells) were being discovered." Her interest in lymphoma was fostered during the "beginning of the age of modern chemotherapy" when a "combination of advances in therapy and advances in biology" led to the first patients being cured of leukemias and lymphomas. Since 1974, Dr. Jaffe has been a senior investigator at the NCI focusing her work on the intersection of immunology and pathology, emphasizing the role of the pathologist as a clinical consultant and clinical investigator. "Within pathology lies the possibility to understand disease at a molecular level" Dr. Jaffe said. "Through diagnosis, we gain insights into the biology of disease and its pathogenesis."
As a member of the Lymphoma Research Foundation's (LRF) Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Dr. Jaffe emphasized how in times of difficult funding, LRF "has the opportunity to target important and evolving research areas that deserve support with minimal delay." From the perspective of a lymphoma pathologist, she stated that the SAB provides "the opportunity to discuss where the field is going with experts in a small group setting which lends itself to providing fertile ground for new insights."
In addition to being a member of LRF's SAB, Dr. Jaffe held the presidency at the Society for Hematopathology and the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology and has been on the advisory board of the American Society of Hematology, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Chair of the Medical Sciences Section of AAAS, and elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Dr. Jaffe believes that those in academic research and medicine have an "important opportunity and obligation to foster junior researchers." Her various honors and awards hold testament to this belief as she has received, in addition to the Fred W. Stewart Award from Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Mostofi Award from the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, the Lennert Prize from the European Association for Haematopathology, and the Honoris Causa from the University of Barcelona, awards that acknowledge her role as a valued mentor including the NCI Outstanding Mentor Award, the Distinguished Clinical Teacher Award from the NIH Fellows Committee, and the Chugai Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Scholarship from the American Society of Investigative Pathology. "I am proud that many researchers I've trained are now successful and independent," she said. "It's exciting to see their progress."
Currently, Dr. Jaffe's research focuses on understanding the earliest stages of tumor evolution, especially in follicular lymphoma (FL). She described in situ forms of FL, which carry the minimal molecular alterations of FL, but do not progress clinically to cause significant disease. Studies of these very early steps in tumor evolution may help us to understand the causes of FL, and why some patients require treatment and others do not. "We are now discovering these early lesions in other types of lymphoma, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma, and even some types of T-cell lymphoma," Dr. Jaffe said.
Dr. Jaffe highlights one of the most exciting things currently going on in lymphoma research, how "understanding lymphoma at the molecular level leads to the creation of new, targeted and specialized agents." This new knowledge and insight enables disease discovery, diagnosis, and investigational studies. As research continues to progress in this ever-evolving field, Dr. Jaffe encourages newly diagnosed lymphoma patients to enroll in clinical trials as they offer access to professionals with great experience and diagnostic expertise and the "opportunity for cutting edge treatment in major medical centers."
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