Carol Kruse, a UCLA scientist and recognized leader in immunological therapy for brain cancer, passed away on March 28 at her home in Los Angeles after a six-month battle with an aggressive form of cancer. She was 61.
Kruse was a professor of neurosurgery and member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she was pioneering effective immunotherapies for men and women with brain cancer. At the time of her passing, she was working on better understanding the immune-resistance mechanisms used by tumor cells to facilitate the development of alternative therapies for treating patients with primary malignant brain tumors.
A tireless contributor to her field, Kruse is best known for having conceived of Allogeneic Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (or AlloCTL), which target brain tumors by their expression of the HLA Class I of human leukocyte antigens that are responsible for regulation of the immune system. that is not expressed on normal quiescent neuroglia. Through research grants and private funding, she initiated two separate clinical trials to treat primary brain tumor patients with AlloCTL.
Over the course of her career, Kruse served in National Institutes of Health study sections and committees, and sat on the editorial boards of many prestigious research journals. She also was invited to speak as a guest lecturer at multiple institutions including UCLA.
Generous with her knowledge and experience, Kruse supported basic research for over 25 years. She mentored dozens of graduate and postdoctoral students and research assistants, and is responsible for training many individuals who went on to become leaders in their field. However, her most important legacy are the patients whose lives have been extended by the experimental therapies she helped to develop, bringing renewed hope to those who so often had few other options for treatment.
Born and raised in Colorado, Kruse attended Colorado State University where she received her B.S. and M.S. degrees. She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA. After a fellowship at Caltech, she returned home and joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School, where she established a new program on brain tumor research. Subsequently, she moved to San Diego and then joined the faculty at UCLA.
Although Kruse was diagnosed in November 2014 and shared her illness only with her closest friends and family, her door was always open to her students and colleagues. However, during the last few weeks, she faced more and more serious health challenges.
She is survived by her husband of 25 years, Dr. Laz Gerschenson; her children Jeffrey, Gregory and Mariana; and her grandchild, Juliana.