Catherine “Cath” Bollard, M.D., MBChB, was chosen this year to serve as director of CRI’s Center for Cancer and Immunology Research (CCIR). CCIR, with annual National Institutes of Health and other external funding of more than $10 million, includes more than 50 clinicians and scientists performing groundbreaking clinical and translational research in understanding the origins and developing and testing novel therapies for childhood cancers and immunologic disorders.
“I’m honored and excited to take on this new role,” says Dr. Bollard. “Since joining Children’s National, we’ve made incredible progress in the cancer immunotherapy field. I look forward to continuing to build on these successes and lead the way toward the next generation of innovative immunotherapy treatments.”
Throughout her youth, Dr. Bollard juggled dual ambitions of being an opera singer or being a doctor. After graduating with her MBChB in 1991, she left her native New Zealand to follow singing ambitions in London. To pay expenses while she was there, she worked in the pediatric hematology-oncology ward at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, inspiring her to reduce music to a hobby and pursue medicine as her true passion.
After earning three more degrees, receiving her first faculty appointment at Baylor College of Medicine, marrying and having two daughters, she achieved the rank of full professor in 2012. A year later, she left Texas to become attending physician at Children’s National Health System and director of the Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy at CRI’s Center for Cancer and Immunology Research.
Since 2015, Dr. Bollard has served as the chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National. She also is professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences and serves as the director of the Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy.
Dr. Bollard’s research focuses on improving outcomes for patients after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, as well as the development of novel cell therapies targeting pathogens (e.g. viral infections) and hematologic cancers. Her work is inspired by a high school friend who was diagnosed with Epstein Barr virus and Hodgkin lymphoma as a teenager and died later from leukemia as a devastating sequelae from her lymphoma treatment.
With her move to Children’s National, she and her team have extended this focus to include pediatric solid tumors, human immunodeficiency virus, primary immune deficiency and, more recently, allergic and autoimmune disorders.
“To save the life of one young person with cancer without pain and without unacceptable side effects,” Dr. Bollard says, “would absolutely fulfill my life’s mission.”