Marie E. Bleakley, MD, PhD, MMSC
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Pediatric bone marrow transplantation, myeloid malignancies, cellular immunotherapy
Cancer is an enormous challenge, but what gives me hope are the new advances in immunotherapies — ways we can manipulate the immune system to fight cancer — and the resilience and strength of the young people I treat.”
What drew you to the field of stem cell transplantation?
During my medical training, I developed a passion for this field because it’s so multifaceted; it involves every biological system in the body, including the immune system, and there’s a psychosocial dimension as well. Treating leukemia and other blood cancers is a long process, so I’ve come to value the relationships I develop with patients and families. Spending time with them and understanding their experience in a deep way drives my research to find more effective ways to treat these diseases.
I am a hematologist-oncologist who specializes in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell transplantation for children and young adults with blood cancers. In addition to providing outpatient care at SCCA, I serve as the co-director of the integrated High-Risk Leukemia Program at Seattle Children’s. In this role, I collaborate with families and other physicians to develop treatment plans for patients with leukemia that has a high risk of relapse.
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I lead a lab that is focused on developing better approaches to stem cell transplantation and other cellular therapies for young patients with leukemia. Our goal is to develop therapies that harness the cancer-fighting power of T cells (a type of immune cell) while also reducing the incidence of graft-versus-host disease, a potentially life-threatening side effect of transplantation. I am the principal investigator of multiple ongoing clinical trials in these areas.
What’s it like to work with you?
I often describe transplantation as a marathon. It’s a long, complicated process that requires stamina, teamwork and good communication — both within a family and between a family and their health care team. I enjoy sitting down with patients and families to discuss what transplantation is like, what the pros and cons are and how we can best support you throughout this journey. Cancer is an enormous challenge, but what gives me hope are the new advances in immunotherapies —ways we can harness the immune system to fight cancer — and the resilience and strength of the young people I treat.
Flinders University of South Australia
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, New South Wales, Australia, Pediatrics
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children's, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology; The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, New South Wales, Australia, Pediatric Oncology
PhD, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; MMSC, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia; Internship, Royal North Shore Hospital, New South Wales, Australia