MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - If life was fair, Dr. John Ohlfest would still be hard at work, finding a cure for cancer.
"People should care because he opitimizes everything you want your doctor to be. He opitimizes the enthusiasm, the not giving up. We're going to beat this," said Dr. John Wagner at the University of Minnesota. "
Dr. Ohlfest left his battle plans in capable hands. In a brand new research building at the University of Minnesota. His groundbreaking work on treating human and canine brain cancers with an immune based vaccine, lives on. The vaccine is like a tetanus shot, in that it causes a patient's own immune system to recognize cancer and attack it.
"I'm doing this because I want to honor his memory. The ideas are all so fantastic," said Dr. David Largaespada, director of the brain tumor program at the U of M. "These are ideas that may have an impact over the next several years."
The research also includes understanding how brain cancers develop and how better to attack it. It was Dr. Ohlfest's life work, but melanoma cut that work short in January. He was just 35 years old and left behind a wife and two small children.
Researcher Michael Olin worked for Dr. Ohlfest. Together they made big discoveries and big plans. Now, Olin has to finish them.
"John wanted to bring things from the bench to the bedside and relatively quick," said Olin. "He wanted to cure this. He wanted to get cures out, especially for children and he really didn't care what he had to do to do it."
Dr. Ohlfest brought people and ideas together in ways that had not been done before. He came up with a plan to work with pet dogs who had brain tumors and through those efforts, he designed new treatments for brain cancers.
In June, the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund honored John for his inspiring work and the legacy he leaves behind. The organization funded much of John's early work.
"He just had an amazing God-given gift to be able to inspire people and connect with people and his enthusiasm was incredibly contagious," said Dr. Ohlfest's wife, Karen Himmel Ohlfest. "I knew him better than anybody you guys and that was not a show. That was the real John. He meant it. He lived it. He felt it. He breathed it. He slept it. It was everything to him."
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