Celebrating Richard T. Hoppe

Stanford Department of Medicine 2022 Hewlett Award Winner

Richard T. Hoppe, MD, Henry S. Kaplan-Harry Lebeson Professor of Cancer Biology

April 26, 2023 - By Cassie Myers

The Albion Walter Hewlett Award, established in 1983, is a recurring award honoring an exceptional physician with ties to Stanford. The 2022 award winner is Richard T. Hoppe, MD, the Henry S. Kaplan-Harry Lebeson Professor of Cancer Biology. Hoppe is recognized for his illustrious career, which includes 19 years as the chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Stanford and hundreds of published research articles and book chapters on Hodgkin disease, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, radiation immunosuppression, and radiation late effects.

Hoppe earned his medical degree at Cornell University Medical College before coming to Stanford for his fellowship in radiation oncology in 1972. During his time at Stanford, he has been responsible for numerous breakthroughs and progress made in the treatment of cancer, particularly in the areas of lymphoma and the use of innovative techniques for the delivery of radiation.

As mentioned on the Radiation Oncology website, Hoppe “was one of the first to recognize and report the importance of understanding the consequences of dose and volume of radiation. With the advent of better treatments, survival rates were markedly increasing. Patients, particularly those with Hodgkin lymphoma, were living longer, so it became imperative to minimize adverse consequences of radiation. Leading a series of landmark sequential clinical studies, he pioneered the use of more limited radiotherapy fields and lower doses of radiation, integrated with chemotherapy, in a series of risk-defining investigations. These principles have revolutionized the treatment of all lymphomas, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved because of Dr. Hoppe’s work.”

As co-founder of the Stanford Interdisciplinary Cutaneous Lymphoma Clinic, Hoppe also helped to develop many of the current treatment regimens used in the cutaneous lymphomas, including mycoses fungoides. Hoppe and his colleagues continue to optimize the “Stanford Total Skin Irradiation Technique” uniquely suited to treat this lymphoma. He developed lower dose regimens, which are suitable for many patients, an option that may be just as effective at controlling the lymphoma and yet can be used multiple times in the course of one’s lifetime.

"Rich treats each cancer patient as a special individual. The clinic may be hectic, his calls accumulating, his calendar full, but when Rich enters the examination room, the patient is the center of his attention.

Hoppe has also focused a research effort on the immunosuppressive effects of radiation. He developed the radiation regimens employed in clinical trials that use “total lymphoid irradiation” combined with systemic treatment to induce transplantation tolerance. This approach has been adopted as a standard by the Stanford Bone Marrow Transplant Program for certain types of  hematopoietic cell transplants. This protocol is also used to establish tolerance in kidney transplantation, so that patients are able to discontinue treatment with immunosuppressive drugs.

Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, Catharine & Howard Avery Professor of Medicine, Emerita, a colleague of Hoppe’s for many years, was effusive in her nomination letter about Hoppe’s achievements as well as his wonderful bedside manner. “His superb clinical skills are one reason thousands of cancer patients are living near-normal lives with a modicum of long-term effects,” she says. “Rich treats each one as a special individual. The clinic may be hectic, his calls accumulating, his calendar full, but when Rich enters the examination room, the patient is the center of his attention. With compassion, a gentleness few physicians achieve, he examines the patient and discusses the diagnosis of cancer, the recommended treatment, and the expectations the patient and the family will face. Rich personifies the often-quoted advice from the eminent Harvard physician, Francis Peabody: ‘The secret in the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.’ As such, he serves as an outstanding role model for students, residents, and faculty.”

Hoppe will receive the award at a Department of Medicine ceremony on October 11th, 2023.