Tanja Gruber, MD, PhD, Named Director of the Bass Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders

November 15, 2019

Tanja Gruber, MD, PhD, has been appointed  the next Division Chief of Hematology, Oncology, Stem Cell Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine and Director of the Bass Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. She is presently an Associate Member of the Molecular Oncology Division in the Oncology Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she has been since 2009.

Dr. Gruber was recruited from a highly talented pool of more than 100 leaders and scholars in pediatric hematology, oncology, and stem cell transplantation. She is a product of the University of Washington, with dual BS degrees in Biology and Biochemistry; University of Southern California, there with MD in Medicine and PhD in Immunology; and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for Internship and Residency in Pediatrics and then Fellowship in Hematology and Oncology. Dr. Gruber was recruited after fellowship to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she has become a nationally and internationally recognized leader and physician-scientist who runs a research laboratory in  addition to national clinical trials. At St. Jude she has focused on high-risk leukemia and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL).  Her laboratory research has led to the identification of CBFA2T3-GLIS2, a novel fusion gene that confers a poor prognosis in pediatric AMKL, and a detailed view of the genomic landscape in MLLr leukemia. Her lab group has also identified bortezomib and vorinostat as active agents in MLLr leukemia with a novel mechanism of action. These data formed the preclinical basis for her to lead the multi-institutional clinical trial “Total Therapy for Infants with Acute LymphoblasticLeukemia.”  She recruited 17 external institutions (including Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital) throughout the US and Canada to join this study, the largest number for any St. Jude leukemia trial to date. 

Multiple colleagues have characterized Dr. Gruber as a visionary and natural leader, a tremendously collaborative physician-scientist, and a rising star who demonstrates the highest judgment and standards. At St. Jude, she has been highly regarded for bringing together multiple stakeholders across clinical and scientific departments to create synergies to deliver innovative care and research to children with cancer. She is also described as the rare physician who very successfully devotes her time to and excels in both laboratory research and dedication to patients. Dr. Gruber will join us at Stanford on August 1, 2020, and she has already hit the ground running right now by actively engaging in several current, high profile national recruitments to pediatric hematology-oncology and stem cell transplant and regenerative medicine. 

Stanford Children's Health expresses deep appreciation to Dr. Maria Grazia Roncarolo for her transformational leadership in the Division of Stem Cell Transplant and Regenerative Medicine and the Bass Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, and for her inspiring service as the Director of the Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine and co-Director of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. After five years of extraordinary growth and impact since her arrival in 2014, which included the recruitment of outstanding faculty, the increase in volume and quality of care, the buildup of national and international reputation, and the move to the brand new Bass center clinical units, Dr. Roncarolo will be stepping away from her role as Division Chief and co-Director of the Bass Center to fully focus on her original mission when she first came to Stanford: accelerating translation of groundbreaking research to achieve truly definitive and curative treatments for children. 

As Dr. Roncarolo shifts her focus to her roles as Director of the Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine and co-Director of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Division of Stem Cell Transplant and Regenerative Medicine will be combined into a single Division representing the full scope of the Bass Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. A formal announcement will be forthcoming regarding Dr. Roncarolo. 

Deep appreciation is owed to the search committee led by Dr. Paul Fisher for the invaluable guidance that has led to this outstanding recruitment. Additionally, thansk go to Dr. Michael Jeng for his exceptional leadership as interim Division Chief in 2017 and 2018 and to Dr. Christy Sandborg for her leadership in 2019 and commitment to working with Dr. Gruber during the coming transition.