Daniel Catovsky obituary

Other lives: Blood cancer specialist who helped to develop treatments for various types of leukaemia

My father, Daniel Catovsky, who has died aged 85, was a specialist in the study of adult blood cancers and helped to develop diagnostic and treatment programmes for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia as well as rarer conditions such as prolymphocytic and hairy cell leukaemia.

Daniel was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Felix Catovsky, a Bessarabian Jew who had emigrated to Argentina and worked as a journalist and author, and Ana (nee Kabanchick), a homemaker whose roots were also in Bessarabia (now modern-day Moldova).

After attending Roca secondary school, he studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, where he met a fellow student, Julia Polak, while they were dissecting a corpse in the anatomy room. They married in 1960. After their first child, Marina, was born in 1967, they set sail across the Atlantic to further their academic studies.

Daniel began work as a research fellow at Hammersmith hospital in London in 1967, building a career in haematology and blood cell cancer research and eventually holding a chair in haematologic malignancies. Starting in 1978 and lasting 25 years, Daniel led four randomised clinical trials into treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia that uncovered a great deal about the chemotherapy combinations needed to best treat the condition.

In 1988 he moved to the Institute of Cancer Research as professor of haematology, simultaneously becoming head of academic haematology at the Royal Marsden hospital.

He officially retired in 2003 but kept academically active as an emeritus professor at the Institute of Cancer Research and continued to forge collaborations with colleagues worldwide. He also acted as mentor to many other scientists and clinicians.

Soon after Daniel and Julia had left Argentina, their country went through a period of political instability, and tragedy struck in 1977 when the military took Daniel’s brother, Hector, in for questioning. The family never saw him again and he became one of the “disappeared”. A second tragedy hit in 2011 when my sister, Marina, was killed in a traffic accident in London.

Julia, who initially worked with Daniel at Hammersmith hospital as a pathologist and eventually became head of the Centre for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at Imperial College London, died in 2014.

He is survived by two sons, Sebastian and me, and two grandsons, Reuben and Noah.

Michael Catovsky

The GuardianTramp

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