Dr. Siddhartha Mukerjee joined Leonard on today's show to talk about his comprehensive history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. In the book, he makes reference to some of the seminal studies on cancer—from the discovery that drugs could help cure the disease (the birth of chemotherapy), to the way that genome sequencing has revolutionized the field. Amazingly enough, many of the studies that Dr. Mukerjee discusses are free online. Here, we've collected the three most important studies that are highlighted in the book. Just click on the link to take a step back in history—to a time when one drug used on one patient could fundamentally alter the face of cancer research forever.
- Temporary Remissiosn in Acute Leukemia in Children Produced by Folic Acid Antagonist, 4-Aminopteroyl-Glutamic Acid (Aminopterin) - This is Sidney Farber's seminal 1948 study detailing the first use of a chemical agent to treat cancer. Mukerjee writes of the study: "It's language was starched, formal, detached, and scientific. Yet, like all great medical papers, it was a page-turner. And like all good novels, it was timeless: to read it today is to be pitched behind the scenes into the tumultuous life of the Boston clinic, its patients hanging on for life as Farber and his assistants scrambled to find new drugs for a dreadful disease that kept flickering away and returning. It was a plot with a beginning, a middle, and, unfortunately, an end."
- Smoking and Carcinoma of the Lung: A Preliminary Report - When this report was published in the British Medical Journal in 1950 by Richard Doll and Bradford Hill, it was the first case-control study that proved the correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. A group of American researchers, Ernest Wynder and Everts Graham, simultaneously (and independently) published a similar study in the United States, Tobacco smoking as a possible etiologic factor in bronchiogenic carcinoma, that proved that the phenomenon was not just confined to one population.
- Effects of a Selective Inhibitor of the Abl Tyrosine Kinase on the Growth of Bcr-Abl Positive Cells - This paper, published by Brian Druker in 1996, was the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of drugs (in this case, Gleevac) that could target the "oncogene"—or the replication mechanism in a cancer cell. Mukerjee believes that specific gene therapies are part of the future of cancer medicine.