Celebrating Dr. Voravit’s Retirement, His Decades of Dedication to Cancer Care and Research

Voravit Ratanatharathorn, M.D., is a well-respected physician here at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, a world-renowned hematologist, medical oncologist and BMT clinical scientist. Throughout the years, Dr. Voravit changed the standard of care for blood, bone marrow, and stem cell transplants and co-authored revolutionary studies while caring for his patients. He plans to retire at the end of February 2024.

Dr. Voravit received his Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Science at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1968, and his medical degree at Ramathibodi Hospital School of Medicine at Mahidol University in 1971. After receiving his M.D., Dr. Voravit completed an internship at Ramathibodi Hospital School of Medicine in 1972, worked at Nan Provincial Hospital in Thailand that same year, came to the U.S. and completed his internship at Grace Hospital in Detroit in 1973, and finished a medical residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1975. He then completed his fellowship training in hematology and oncology at Wayne State University between 1975 and 1977. Dr. Voravit additionally trained with Dr. E. Donall Thomas, the Nobel Laureate, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Dr. Voravit returned to Harper Hospital, founded the Blood and Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplant (BMT) Program and performed the first stem cell transplant in 1980. This was the first adult stem cell transplant program in the state. He expanded the program, making it the first combined adult and pediatric program in Michigan, and along with it, he started the Clinical Stem Cell Processing Laboratory.  He performed the first unrelated stem cell transplant in Michigan on a 13-year-old pediatric patient in 1991.  

Dr. Voravit’s research has contributed to the expanding area of stem cell transplantation. He was the principal investigator of two major phase III randomized trials proving the superiority of tacrolimus in the prevention of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in sibling and unrelated donor transplantation. This became the worldwide standard for GVHD prevention. He was the first investigator to demonstrate the role of B-cell depletion as a modality of therapy for chronic GVHD, as well as other auto-immune diseases. He also described the role of B-cells in the pathogenesis of acute GVHD in a large registry database analysis. His studies were the first to show the use of Rituxan to treat chronic GVHD. He was also the first to publish the successful treatment of ITP with Rituxan.

After ten years at another cancer center, Dr. Voravit returned to Karmanos in 2004 to lead the transplant program. While here, he has helped to triple the number of transplants treated at Karmanos. He also started the J.P. McCarthy Cord Stem Cell Bank at Karmanos in 2001, one of only a few internationally recognized cord stem cell banks affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program. Along with BMT and GVHD, Dr. Voravit has dedicated his career to treating malignant hematology, including Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.

He is loved by his patients, staff and colleagues. Thank you, Dr. Voravit, for the lives you’ve touched and for your vision of providing the best care to your patients in their fight with cancer