Dr. Holmberg specializes in bone marrow transplantation and has clinical expertise in immunotherapy and transplantation immunology.
My philosophy is to present patients with their various treatment options and let them choose what therapy they wish to receive. I also want to show empathy, compassion and caring for my patients.
Immunotherapy, transplantation immunology
- Member, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- Associate Professor, Medical Oncology Division, University of Washington School of Medicine
- MD: University of Miami School of Medicine, 1986
- PhD: Harvard University, Immunology, 1983
For more information about Dr. Leona A. Holmberg's clinical and research expertise, click here.
Saving Lives with Bone Marrow Transplants
During her years at Harvard University, Leona Holmberg, MD, PhD earned her undergraduate degree in history with a minor in science before going on to study immunology and earning her PhD. “I was brought up to be a specialist in a lot of things,” Dr. Holmberg says. At Harvard, she worked with transplant physicians and researchers, and realized that in order to implement her immunology research in clinical trials, she was going to have to change her emphasis or become a doctor.
“I went on to medical school just to do transplants,” she says. “I was very structured and looked forward to expanding my work to the whole concept of using immunology to cure cancer.”
Curing cancer isn’t just about using more drugs, she says, “but it is a platform to build on.” Immunotherapy is being used in clinical vaccine trials and in combination with immune stimulators as maintenance therapy after transplant.
Dr. Holmberg spends five months a year caring for patients and works on up to four to five clinical trials at a time.
“It is fun and satisfying intellectually to take an idea on to a trial,” Dr. Holmberg says. “If I’m correct in my speculation – and luck is there – it’s very rewarding.”
Recipient of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s first Ali Al-Johani clinical-research award for providing exemplary and compassionate care to her patients and their families, Dr. Holmberg finds a lot of joy in taking care of patients. “It enriches my life and I get more from them than I think I give my patients. I love what I do and I’m very lucky. I think my patients know that I care.”
The role of a physician, as Dr. Holmberg sees it, is to give patients choices on what do to. “There is no right or wrong answer,” she says. “Only you can decide how you want to live your life. And there are no guarantees that any particular therapy will work for you.”
When she isn’t providing care to her patients or attending to her research protocols, Dr. Holmberg enjoys spending time hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. She’s also a master of quick reading and will go through a couple of non-medical related books a week.