In Memoriam: Dr. Peter Cassileth
Peter Cassileth, M.D., emeritus professor of Medicine and former division chief of Hematology-Oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has died of leukemia at age 73.
Dr. Cassileth exemplified the role of physician educator and clinical researcher. His contributions to hematology were myriad, and he helped to define many of the basic therapeutic tenets that are currently used in the modern management of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Early in his career, Dr. Cassileth played a major role in defining the role of consolidation and intensification therapy, and the diagnostic utility of day 14 bone marrows in AML. Dr. Cassileth also co-authored a pivotal study that established the role of transplant in AML. The wisdom and utility of his contributions are evidenced by the fact that many of these paradigms are in routine use by hematologists worldwide today.
During his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania (1969-1992), Dr. Cassileth served as the associate chief of Hematology-Oncology Section, cancer center associate director, and director of the Bone Marrow Transplant program. From 1992-1999, Dr. Cassileth served as division chief of Hematology-Oncology and deputy director for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was instrumental in establishing the bone marrow transplant program at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Cassileth was an active and highly visible member of the American Society of Hematology and was one of the founding members of the Association of Specialty Professors. He was a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine, chair of the Hematology Board Exam Committee, a director of the ABIM Board, and a trustee of the ABIM Foundation. He served as an ECOG chair of both the Leukemia Committee and Lymphoma Committees. Dr. Cassileth authored more than 100 publications focused on clinical research studies in hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplantation as well as several widely used textbooks in Hematology-Oncology.
First and foremost, Dr. Cassileth was a gifted hematologist and academician. He was a superb physician, teacher, and mentor to generations of young physicians. With unwavering dedication to his students and his patients, he was grounded in the fundamentals, yet always fully abreast of the latest advances, many of which he was directly responsible for.
“To present a case to Peter Cassileth was a rewarding and unforgettable educational experience in which one could access a vast treasure trove of scientific and hematologic knowledge and experience that was critically and skillfully used to benefit patients and trainees alike,” said Sylvester Interim Director Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D.
Yet Dr. Cassileth’s towering intellect was always balanced by extraordinary humility – an awareness that despite our best efforts, there was far more that we had yet to learn.
“He will be sorely missed in our clinics and in our clinical conferences and by our patients, faculty, and staff,” Rosenblatt said. “Our hearts extend condolences to his devoted spouse, Dr. Judith Ratzan, and to Peter’s family.”
In recognition of Peter Cassileth’s extraordinary contributions, Sylvester has established a yearly award recognizing the outstanding graduating fellow in Hematology–Oncology.