One of the world's leading experts in bone marrow failure and related blood disorders recently joined The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Hematology researcher Monica Bessler, M.D., Ph.D., arrived at the hospital this summer to establish a new program, the Pediatric and Adult Comprehensive Bone Marrow Failure Center.
Dr. Bessler becomes the first person to hold the Buck Family Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology at Children's Hospital. She also is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
For physician-in-chief Alan R. Cohen, M.D., a pediatric hematologist himself, Bessler's new center represents a major advance in bone marrow diseases. "Dr. Bessler is recognized throughout the world as a leader in understanding the origins of these serious disorders, as well as their clinical manifestations and their management," he said. "She also enhances our ability to ensure a smooth transition for affected patients as they grow into adulthood."
Bone marrow failure causes reduced or abnormal production of blood cells, an abnormality which can lead to serious disability and life-threatening consequences. Bone marrow failure can be inherited or acquired.
The inherited bone marrow failure syndromes include, among others, dyskeratosis congenita, Fanconi anemia, Diamond Blackfan anemia and Schwachman Diamond syndrome. Acquired forms include aplastic anemia and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Often, however, the cause of bone marrow failure remains unclear.
Dr. Bessler studies the molecular and genetic events that give rise to these diseases in children and adults, with the goals of refining diagnostic tools and developing more effective and comprehensive treatments. Because blood cells play key roles in fighting infection, in carrying oxygen, in blood clotting and in other important biological processes, better understanding of their production and functions may have medical implications beyond blood disorders.
Most recently, Dr. Bessler led a research program in bone marrow failure at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She earned her M.D. from the University of Basel in Switzerland and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of London, where she was a research fellow in hematology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. Subsequently, she pursued research in genetics as the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Dr. Bessler has brought several research grants to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from the National Institutes of Health and from the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Program for Bone Marrow Failure Research. Those projects join Children's Hospital's already robust programs in pediatric genomics, stem cell, red blood cell and blood platelet studies, and other translational research aimed at applying scientific discoveries to treatments for children.
The new Buck Family Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology that Dr. Bessler now holds was funded by Elia and J. Mahlon ("Jim") Buck Jr. of Haverford, Pa., whose daughter, Anne Garrett ("Sissy") Buck, died of aplastic anemia in 1975. The Buck family, including Elia's and Jim's other children, Jim Buck III and Caroline Buck Rogers, continue to promote research in aplastic anemia, and over the years, have become strong supporters of the mission of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.