Tag Archive for SidneyFarber

New Statues Celebrate Sidney Farber, MD, and “Jimmy”

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund have long been connected with baseball. So it’s only fitting that the new statues of Dana-Farber founder Sidney Farber, MD, and 12-year-old Einar Gustafson, one of his early patients, reflect this historic relationship.

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The War on Cancer, 40 years later

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Friday, December 23, marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a national “War on Cancer.”

On that date in 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which allocated $1.5 billion over three years for cancer research and control. He declared, “I hope that in the years ahead we may look back on this day and this action as being the most significant action taken during this Administration.”

Forty years later, the War on Cancer can claim countless successes against one of the most resilient and recalcitrant enemies mankind has faced.

Some cancers that were once almost invariably fatal, such as pediatric leukemia, are now cured in the vast majority of cases. In kidney cancer, the five-year survival rate – the percentage of patients alive five years after diagnosis – has increased from about 50 percent in 1971 to more than 70 percent today. In colon cancer, the rate has increased from 52 to more than 66 percent over the same time period. Death rates for cancers of the breast, liver, lung, prostate, and several other organs and tissues have been declining for the past 10-20 years.

At Dana-Farber, we take special pride in the progress of the War on Cancer because our founder, Sidney Farber, MD, was one of the key figures in mobilizing support for it.

As a frequent speaker before Congressional subcommittees, he described the burden of cancer on patients and their families – and the promise of research – in a way that captured the imagination both of legislators and the public at large.

Dr. Sidney Farber (far left) was a White House guest of Pat (second from right) and President Richard Nixon after the president declared his “War on Cancer” and passed the National Cancer Act of 1971. When the president appointed a National Cancer Advisory Board the following March, Dr. Farber was granted a four-year term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With philanthropist and activist Mary Lasker, Dr. Farber was instrumental in creating the national will to fund and lead an unprecedented commitment to the defeat of cancer. Author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, has described the campaign in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

In 1971, no one was under the illusion that the War on Cancer would be easily or quickly won. At the signing ceremony of the National Cancer Act, Nixon remarked, “We would not want to raise false hopes by simply the signing of an Act,” and time has borne out the complexity of the challenge that cancer represents.

Despite all the strides over the past 40 years, cancer remains one of the biggest health challenges we face. The good news is that advances in the understanding of cancer at the basic, molecular level have positioned us to make even greater progress in the years ahead.

Author Siddhartha Mukherjee: “Cancer is a part of us”

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Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, was a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber in 2003 when one of his patients asked him, “What is it, exactly, that I am battling?”

Mukherjee took this simple, yet profound, question seriously. The answer formed the basis for his 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Mukherjee’s spellbinding story spans 4,000 years, beginning with Egyptian hieroglyphs that reference a woman with a disease we now know to be breast cancer.

Several Dana-Farber physicians, scientists, and patients are featured in the book, most notably the Institute’s founder, Sidney Farber, MD.

Now an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, Mukherjee shares what he learned in writing the book, a project he says is not only about cancer, but also about his coming of age as an oncologist.

Cancer is a part of us. Every life is touched by the family of diseases we call cancer. In the U.S., one in three women and one in two men will develop some form of cancer.

Dr. Sidney Farber is a main character in the story of cancer, for his political and scientific contributions. One of the inventors of modern chemotherapy, Farber had a crucial insight: the importance of bringing cancer alive in the public imagination. When he launched the first “Jimmy” campaign in 1948 [laying the foundation for today's Jimmy Fund], he brought cancer research out of his basement laboratory and into the bright light of publicity.

Later, he kept cancer in the public eye through his partnership with philanthropist Mary Lasker, using the word “crusade” as he unveiled his vision for a campaign that would later become President Nixon’s “War on Cancer.”

We study the past to explain the present. The isolation and rage of a 36-year-old woman with stage III breast cancer today has ancient echoes in Atossa, a Persian queen who swaddled her diseased breast in cloth, then had a slave cut it off with a knife.

The way we imagine cancer has changed just as much as the way we treat it. Every era imagines cancer differently. Once, it was thought that cancer came from black bile in the body. A woman in 1930 imagined breast cancer very differently from a woman in 1980. Today, we have to get used to the idea of a deadly illness emerging from our own healthy cells. The very genes that play a role in normal physiology can also unleash cancer.

Patients are at the center of the story. Although many doctors and scientists enter and exit the stage, patients are at the center. I dedicate my book to Robert Sandler, the first child to receive chemotherapy [from Sidney Farber, MD], and I feature Carla, who survived, and Germaine, who did not. I end with Germaine’s story because it is very important to realize this book is not about victory; there is so much more work to be done.