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October 23, 2014

U of M cancer research pioneer John Kersey dies at 74

The doctor and cancer researcher that led a University of Minnesota team to successfully complete the world’s first bone marrow transplant for lymphoma in 1975 has died, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Dr. John Kersey died suddenly this week at age 74.

According to the U of M,  Kersey founded of the University’s Blood and Marrow Transplant program and serving as director from 1974 to 1995.

He was also a founding director of the U of M’s Masonic Cancer Center, which became a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center in 1998.

Aaron Friedman, M.D., dean of the Medical School and the U of M’s vice president of health sciences, said Kersey’s “enthusiasm for his work was contagious, and his passion for bringing people together to solve problems changed the way cancer research is conducted.”

Kersey told MPR in a 2008 interview that his dream was there would be some point in the future that bone marrow transplants wouldn’t be necessary. His hope was to have “something simpler, such as a pill that you can take for cancer or better yet to prevent it.”

A memorial service for Kersey is set for March 21 at the U of M’s McNamara Center, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.