Stem cell expert to enhance pediatric hematology/oncology programs at the University of Chicago Medical Center

Stem cell expert to enhance pediatric hematology/oncology programs at the University of Chicago Medical Center

November 30, 2006

John Cunningham, MD, a leader in treating hemoglobinopathies and genetic blood disorders, has accepted a position with pediatric hematology/oncology and stem cell transplantation at the University of Chicago Medical Center, effective Dec. 1.

Cunningham's groundbreaking work helped to develop a bone marrow transplant technique for children who do not have a sibling match. This new technique provides an option for all children with a biological parent. Along with treating children with malignant disease, he also will care for those whose blood disorders are not malignant, such as patients with sickle cell anemia.

Cunningham's work will be central to the development of the Institute for Molecular Pediatric Sciences, an innovative enterprise that commingles scientific research, clinical studies and practical medical applications where he will be a leader in stem cell and physiology research.

Currently with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Cunningham has led research that expands medical understanding of sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. From 1997 to 2003, he served as St. Jude's medical director of cell and gene therapy laboratories.

"Dr. Cunningham is an outstanding addition to the University of Chicago," said Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, physician in chief of Comer Children's Hospital, chairman of pediatrics, and director of the Institute for Molecular Pediatric Sciences.

"His work in stem cell transplantation revolutionized the treatment of hemoglobinopathies in children," he said. "Dr. Cunningham will lead the effort to significantly grow both the clinical and research programs in pediatric hematology/oncology, advancing Comer Children's Hospital into the top tier of nationally recognized centers for care of children with cancer."

Cunningham, a native of Ireland, earned his medical degree from the University College Dublin, followed by a masters of science degree in biochemistry from Kings College in London. He completed his internal medicine residency at St. Laurence's Hospital in Dublin and a clinical fellowship at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in the same city.

In addition, he held positions at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, including clinical research fellow and honorary registrar, Wellcome research fellow in clinical science, and bone marrow transplant coordinator in the Department of Hematology.

In 1991, Cunningham came to the United States as visiting associate at the clinical Hematology Branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health. He stayed with the government organization until 1993 when he joined St. Jude.

Cunningham serves as vice chair of the American Cancer Society Molecular Genetics and Oncogenes Study Section. He has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals, as well as several invited reviews and book chapters. He sits on the editorial board of Journal of Biological Chemistry and is a reviewer for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Blood, Cancer Research, and Genomics. And he has delivered invited lectures in Australia, Venezuela, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Malta and across the United States.