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Cooperative Group Trial Pioneer Dr. James F. Holland Dies at 92

May 25, 1925 – March 22, 2018


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ASCO AND THE ONCOLOGY COMMUNITY are deeply saddened by the loss of James F. Holland, MD, FASCO, who passed away on March 22, 2018. He was 92. 

James F. Holland, MD, FASCO

James F. Holland, MD, FASCO

Dr. Holland was a Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Tisch Cancer Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a devoted member and active volunteer within ASCO. He served as the Scientific Program Committee chair from 1967 to 1968, and officially became a member in 1970. Dr. Holland was elected ASCO president from 1976 to 1977. He was awarded ASCO’s highest scientific honor, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture (1982), and the Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Achievement (1993), and was recognized as a Fellow of ASCO (FASCO; 2007). 

Dr. Holland is known for his involvement in developing groundbreaking cooperative clinical trial protocols for the treatment of leukemia. In 1953, Dr. Holland joined the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where he worked to initiate a clinical trial that would compare continuous or intermittent treatment with two chemotherapy agents for acute leukemia: methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine. 

Before the trial was completed, Dr. Holland moved to Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, New York. Together with researchers at the NCI, the important work on this cooperative trial continued, leading to the formation of the Acute Leukemia Group B (which later became the Cancer and Leukemia Group B, now part of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology). The work done by Dr. Holland and his colleagues on the trial protocol itself would serve as a prototype for future clinical trials, with its incorporation of eligibility and exclusion criteria, prestudy testing, a scheme for randomization, a central review of morphology, measures for supportive care, and detailed criteria for measurement of response. 

Chair, Cancer and Leukemia Group B 

Dr. Holland was elected chair of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B in 1962, during which time the group expanded its scope to include pediatric neoplasms other than leukemia, studies of metastatic carcinoma in adults, and trials assessing adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer. Ultimately, the cooperative group’s work on acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children would help to transform the disease from an incurable illness to one with a greater than 80% survival rate. While at Roswell Park, Dr. Holland and colleagues developed the “7 + 3” regimen of three daily injections of daunorubicin and 7 days of intravenous cytarabine, a schedule now widely used to treat acute myelocytic leukemia. 

Dr. Holland also served as President of the American Association for Cancer Research in 1970 and was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1972 for his contributions to the concept and application of combination therapy in the treatment of acute leukemia in children. 

Dr. Holland was born on May 25, 1925, in Morristown, New Jersey. After graduating from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completing his residency, Dr. Holland served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War. Dr. Holland was predeceased by his wife, Jimmie C. Holland, MD, known as the founder of the field of psycho-oncology, who passed away in December 2017. The Hollands are survived by their six children and many grandchildren. ■

Originally published in ASCO Connection, March 29, 2018. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. 


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