With great sadness, we have been informed about the passing of Professor Boris V. Afanasyev on March 16, 2020.
Boris Afanasyev, Dr. of Medical Sciences, was Director of the Raisa M. Gorbacheva Institute of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology, and Transplantation. He graduated from the First Leningrad Medical I. P. Pavlov Institute, in 1971. Right from the beginning of his career he was fascinated by the biology of hematopoietic stem cells, a topic he never left. During the 1970s and early 1980s he performed experimental laboratory research on this topic resulting in his MD thesis (1977) on the biology of bone marrow stem cells in healthy individuals and neutropenic patients and his second (doctoral) degree (1983) addressing “Granulo-monocytopoiesis in acute leukemia and blast crisis”. During the 1980s, he devoted his professional activity to leukemia treatment and Bone Marrow Transplantation. In 1986 he received training at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Center in Seattle in stem cell transplantation. In 1987 he became head of the Dept. of BMT at the Petrov National Medical Research Center. Since 1997 he worked in the Clinic for Bone marrow Transplantation at the 1st Pavlov State Medical University of St. Petersburg, where he became the founding Director of the Raisa Gorbacheva Memorial Research Institute of Children Oncology, Hematology and Transplantation. In acknowledgment of his achievements the Russian government awarded him with the title “Honored doctor of Russia” in 2010.
Boris Afanasyev was a true forerunner and pioneer of stem cell transplantation in Russia. Back in 1991 he performed the first allogeneic transplantation in a child in Russia. This achievement can only be fully appreciated, if one remembers the overall situation in Russia at that time.
He also pioneered allogeneic matched related transplantation, unrelated and haplo-identical transplantation in his country and eventually made the unit in St. Petersburg the largest in Russia and one of the largest centers for allogeneic SCT in Europe.
Boris Afanasyev impressed all of us with his vision, his disregard for obstacles and his perseverance to pursue his aims advancing treatment for his patients, combining these passions with his art of friendliness, openness and his ability to communicate.
Besides his huge efforts in performing the clinical SCT program, he developed networking and education for stem cell transplant and hematology in Russia. Already during the 1990s he organized meetings for his Russian colleagues and international speakers, on ships travelling the Volga and the channels up to Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga, celebrating, science, medicine and the White Nights. Since 2007, he was the mastermind behind the annual Raisa Gorbacheva Memorial Meetings, always in September, commemorating Raisa Gorbacheva, again, a meeting of international and Russian scientists. As a spinoff, with help of some of his European friends he founded the Journal of Cellular Therapy and Transplantation dedicated to his field for the benefit of his Russian colleagues.
Prof. Afanasyev was highly committed to the EBMT and contributed to many prospective and retrospective EBMT studies. He was awarded with the Clinical Achievement Award from EBMT in Lisbon 2018.
Boris V. Afanasyev is survived by his wife Olga, his daughter Anastasia and the grandchildren Emil Boris and Antonia.
All of us are thankful to have had the privilege to collaborate and work with Boris and to be his friends. We will never forget him.
Axel Zander, Boris Fehse, Nicolaus Kröger