Alter Retires After 21 Years at NCI
In June 2021, Dr. Blanche P. Alter, senior clinician in the NCI Clinical Genetics Branch, retired after 21 years of service. Alter is an internationally renowned scholar of cancer-prone genetic syndromes, particularly hematologic bone marrow failure disorders.
In her tenure at NCI, Alter developed and led the inherited bone marrow failure syndromes (IBMFS) study, an interdisciplinary clinical research program to conduct systematic investigations of cancer in families with IBMFS, including Fanconi anemia, dyskeratosis congenita, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome and others. With this study, she led her team to champion novel diagnostic methods, find new causative genes and help families manage serious illness.
During a career spanning 5 decades, Alter was prolific in publishing more than 350 peer-reviewed articles, books and book chapters. She has received many awards for her groundbreaking research, including the NIH Merit Award for her integral role in the IBMFS Study (2009), the Gluckman Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), NIAID Merit Award (2014) and was nominated a Luminary Speaker in 2019 by the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.
In addition to her roles as researcher and clinician, she has also been an excellent mentor who provided guidance and encouragement to many young scientists. More than 20 fellows and interns have benefited from her generous mentorship and have gone on to fulfilling careers in medicine, epidemiology and other scientific disciplines.
Before coming to NCI, Alter was chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and held professorships in pediatrics at UTMB, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. She received an M.D., completed an internship and residency in pediatrics and obtained an M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Alter is board certified in pediatrics and in pediatric hematology/oncology, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and an elected member of the Association of American Physicians. She has sat on dozens of boards and committees and has served as a reviewer for many top-tier journals, including Annals of Medicine, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention and New England Journal of Medicine.
Alter’s unique and comprehensive IBMFS cohort study will continue to advance understanding of the underlying biology of these syndromes, their connection with cancer etiology and their clinical manifestations.
Following retirement, she will serve as a special volunteer to NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.