North Hollywood, CA -- Stockholm’s Grand Hotel, where the Nobel Prize was awarded in the early 20th Century, was the historic setting for the International Myeloma Foundation's 11th Annual Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award on June 11th honoring leading Swedish hematologist Prof. Gösta Gahrton.
“It’s wonderful to be in a place where so many medical milestones took place,” said Susie Novis, President and Co-Founder of the IMF, kicking off the gala evening.
Dr. Brian Durie, Chairman and Co-founder of the IMF, welcomed the audience of 144 attendees who gathered to pay tribute to Prof. Gahrton for his contributions to the field of multiple myeloma. Among them, Dr. Durie pointed out, were eight previous Kyle Award winners—the award’s namesake, Dr. Robert Kyle, Dr. Ken Anderson, Dr. Heinz Ludwig, Dr. Mario Boccadoro, Dr. Jesus San Miguel, Prof. Douglas Joshua, Dr. Joan Blade and Dr. Durie.
The Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award pays homage to the man considered to be the “grandfather” of myeloma treatment. In his more than 40 years at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Kyle has gained worldwide recognition as a pioneer and respected leader in the advancement of research, clinical treatment, and education about myeloma.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Durie recalled meeting Dr. Robert Kyle early in his own medical career. “I was a young guy coming from Scotland to the Mayo Clinic—and who do I get as a mentor but Dr. Kyle? This fortuitous event led to being mentored by him, and to being a friend of Dr. Kyle’s. To be able to give this award tonight is an honor.”
Dr. Christer Paul, a professor of hematology at the Karolinska Institute, offered some personal reflections and humorous insights about Prof. Gahrton, his longtime friend and co-worker at the Karolinska Institute. “He’s like a big brother,” Prof. Paul observed. “I’m always looking up to him – and sometimes fighting with him like a big brother.”
He ticked off Prof. Gahrton’s professional accomplishments: “He’s been a professor of medicine for many years. He is a member of the Nobel Prize committee—and in some ways was instrumental when Don Thomas received the Nobel Prize (in 1990, for the development of cell and organ transplantation).” But,” Prof. Paul noted, “there are other strings on his bow. He is a mountain climber, a very good tennis player and a great hunter.”
Dr. Ray Powles, Head of Hematology and Oncology at Cancer Centre London, echoed the praise for Prof. Gahrton, whom he said he has known for 42 years. A touching video chronicled Dr. Gahrton’s career as a pioneer in bone marrow transplants, investigator into the use of cell and gene therapy for the treatment of hematological disorders, and author of hundreds of scientific articles. In it were heartfelt tributes by colleagues and lovely images of his family.
In accepting the award, Dr. Gahrton appeared to be amused by the accolades. “At times like this, maybe you have to take all this with a grain of salt," he said with a smile. Then, he, too, reflected on his history with Dr. Kyle. “I recall when we were in Poland and we sneaked away from a meeting and took a boat out on the river. We got to know each other very well.”
He graciously thanked “all the people I’ve collaborated with—lab technicians and people in the hospitals,” and his family (“Without my wife Astrid, I couldn’t do anything!”), as well as “the whole myeloma community!"
Prof. Gahrton praised the IMF and Susie Novis, as well. “I appreciate your honesty and integrity. I appreciate all that you have done,” he said, adding, “Susie, you are a wonderful lady. Who else could have built an organization like this?”
A chamber trio played as all nine of the Kyle Award winners gathered on the stage for photos and camaraderie. The spirit of scientific achievement seemed to fill this beautiful room once again.